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Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (A Movie Review)

Updated: Oct 30, 2022

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead


Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei, Rosemary Harris, Aleksa Palladino, Michael Shannon, Amy Ryan, Brian F. O’Byrne, Blaine Horton, Arija Bareikis, Leonardo Cimino, Lee Wilkoff, Damon Gupton and Adrian Martinez.

Screenplay by Kelly Masterson.

Directed by Sidney Lumet.

Distributed by THINKFilm.  117 minutes.  Rated R.

Families don’t come much more dysfunctional than the Hansons in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

The latest crime dissection by legendary 83-year-old director Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network and The Verdict are just a few of his classics) shows that he hasn’t lost any of his touch for telling complicated stories where moral lines are blurred and people almost inevitably get deeper than they planned and just as inevitably make absolutely the wrong move.

Made with a twisty-turny clever screenplay which pops back and forth in time with little obvious rhyme or reason and yet slowly reveals more and more of its story to the audience.

The film starts in a surprisingly graphic fashion, with Philip Seymour Hoffman passionately riding Marisa Tomei doggie-style in a hotel room.  Then we are quickly cut to a suburban jewelry store where an armed robbery goes disastrously and violently wrong.

We are not sure what one has to do with the other, but this is quickly revealed, and layer upon layer of deception and betrayal is steadily exposed throughout the running time.

It is the story of Andy (Hoffman) and Nick (Ethan Hawke), a grown pair of brothers who decide to rob their parents’ (Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris) jewelry shop to get some desperately needed cash.  It is insured, Andy assures his doubtful brother, and they know the shop.  It is the perfect crime.

Of course, anytime someone thinks they have planned the perfect crime, they are in for a rude awakening.

The robbery goes awry and the two spend the rest of the film dodging all of the many complications which inevitably pop up – affairs, drugs, anger, thugs, betrayal… it goes on and on.  There are a multitude of plot twists, though it would be unfair to to reveal any of them here because it would ruin the well-constructed flow of a truly original, well-made and acted film.

Check it out and find it all out yourself.  You won’t be sorry.  It’s worth the trip.

Dave Stroehler

Copyright ©2008  All rights reserved.  Posted: April 19, 2008.

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