When two brothers organize the robbery of their parents' jewelry store the job goes horribly wrong, triggering a series of events that sends them, their father and one brother's wife hurtling towards a shattering climax.
John has lost all his money. He sits outside a diner in the desert when Sydney happens along, buys him coffee, then takes him to Reno and shows him how to get a free room without losing ... See full summary »
Paul Thomas Anderson
Philip Baker Hall,
John C. Reilly,
Needing extra cash, two brothers conspire to pull off the perfect, victimless crime. No guns, no violence, no problem. But when an accomplice ignores the rules and crosses the line, his actions trigger a series of events in which no one is left unscathed. Written by
A multi-perspective heist movie that turns into so much more
BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD starts off promisingly, setting up a simple heist that goes awry, told from varying perspectives (in RASHOMON style). At around the hour mark, Sidney Lumet transforms this film into something that is so much more than the sum of its parts; it eventually morphs into a multi-faceted family drama, exploring the full realm of human emotions/relations, as the story comes to its chilling climax.
As is the case with Lumet, he manages to coax exceptional performances out of his star-studded cast, without any notion of over-acting or hyperbole. Philip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his best roles, is a complex, mysterious, and interesting character, and oftentimes dwarfs Ethan Hawke, who plays his brother, Hank. That's not to say that Hawke is not bad; in fact he is quite above adequate, in a troubled role that suits his style. Marisa Tomei is excellent for her relatively short appearance (the fact that she bares her flesh adds to this). Albert Finney's character (Andy and Hank's father) is the most intriguing, and in my opinion, he deserved a bit more screen-time. Amy Ryan also performs her job adequately.
BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD is not an exceptional movie, but it proves that Lumet is still near the top of his game at the (apparent) twilight of an illustrious career. Many of his characteristics and trademarks appear here, not least of which involves the use of his characters. Infused with a killer script (no pun intended), smart dialogue and pacing, and a decent score, BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD is a must-see. A truly underrated gem. 8/10. 3 stars (out of 4). Should just enter my Top 250 at 248. Highly recommended.
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