Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ March 29, 2010
Sidney Lumet's final film is purely an actor's movie. Every performance is first rate and while the drama at times becomes overly melodramatic, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is heart wrenching drama told from multiple perspectives about one horrific action and the consequences that follow.
Super Reviewer
December 1, 2007
Domineering Philip Seymour Hoffman talks his weak willed younger brother into helping him rob their parents' jewelry store to solve both their financial difficulties, but when the heist goes wrong their lives start to unravel. Sidney Lumet has been making quality thrillers for 50 years, but in his latest effort he takes a few cues from his younger pretenders. The plot themes have a lot in common with Fargo and A Simple Plan and the execution is reminiscent of Jackie Brown and its familiar disjointed timeline. In fact there is little here that hasn't been done before so don't expect much in the way of originality or surprises, but the quality cast all put in solid performances and Lumet certainly still knows how to pace a story and crank up the suspense. No gimmickry, no pointless frills; just an extremely well crafted and intelligent thriller.
Super Reviewer
½ November 9, 2007
Very dark, realistic and with outstanding acting this dramatic thriller tells the story of a jewelry robbery gone wrong and the catastrophic consequences it has for the family involved. The non-linear way to tell the story through the eyes of the protagonists adds an additional level of suspense. While some parts could have used some trimming, the result is still gut-wrenching as the noose tightens around the character's throats and you can't help but wonder how this mess is gonna end. Well done.
Super Reviewer
½ October 12, 2012
Sidney Lumet is a director that's no stranger to crafting intense pieces of work. In fact, he's a master at it. Just look at a few from his highly impressive filmography like "12 Angry Men", "Fail-Safe", "Network" or "Serpico". He's also no stranger to a heist movie, having made one of the sub-genre's best in "Dog Day Afternoon". In "Before The Devil Knows You're Dead" - his last film before his death - Lumet returns to that sub-genre and, once again, delivers with aplomb.
Hank (Ethan Hawke) and Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) are two brothers whose financial woes are having a direct effect on their lives. In order to solve their problems, Andy hatches a plan to rob a jewellery store. He calls it a "mom and pop" operation and it's quite literally that: the store is owned by the brothers' parents. If all goes down as it supposed to, then nobody will get hurt. Like so many crimes of this nature though, things can and do go wrong, dragging everyone down with a devastating turn of events.
Lumet builds his film slowly and assuredly, revealing the characters' motivations bit by bit before peeling away the layers of their downfall. To do this, he cleverly plays with timeframes; changing back, forward and during the robbery itself. The focus is on the two brothers, as well as their emotionally stilted father (Albert Finney). Of course, this type of narrative device is nothing new. We have seen it used many times before but Lumet's skill is in keeping it fresh and gripping. In support of his deft handling of the material, the actors deliver outstanding performances across the board; Tomei nails the ditzy wife routine; Hawke is marvellously high strung and weasel-like; Finney lends his usual reliability and there's a small but welcome role for a threatening Michael Shannon. Unsurprisingly though, it's Hoffman's movie. He has a real presence here shifting from secretive to calculated then deadly with absolute ease. It may be unfair to single out one particular actor but this is another example of Hoffman's incredible ability to completely inhabit a character. His downfall in particular, is of powerful and tragic Shakespearean proportions and he completely captures the intensity of a deeply immoral man.
Sidney Lumet was in his 80's when he directed this, yet it shows a vibrancy that could easily be associated with a much younger director. With a canon of top-quality films behind him, this is as good and as riveting as anything he has done. Sadly it was his last but what a film to go out on.
Super Reviewer
January 19, 2008
Had this DVD lying around for a long time, finally got around to seeing it. As is often the case, wondered why it took me so long!
Really good thriller about two brothers, both with money problems who decide to rob a jewelry store - which happens to belong to their parents. From there on things go downhill and get worse and worse. Good cast and well paced. Enjoyed this one.
Super Reviewer
August 2, 2012
Sidney Lumet's last picture is a stunning crime drama about two brothers who plot to rob their parent's jewelry story. When the robbery doesn't go off as planned, things are set in motion that will affect both brothers, and have serious consequences. With brilliant performances from its cast, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a stunning crime drama that is a fine final to Sidney Lumet's legendary career. Lumet assembles a fine cast of talent here, and they each bring something wonderful to the screen. Philip Seymour Hoffman delivered the strongest performance here and he proves yet again that he is at the top of his game. The film is a mix of drama and heist film, but is also very quite different. I really enjoyed the film and this is a powerful film that shows a family coming apart due to the consequences of the acts of two brothers. Brilliantly filmed and directed, Before the Devil Knows Your Dead is a memorable film, one that is hard to forget. The strength of the film lies within its powerful script and cast. This is a well crafted film that if you enjoy Lumet's work, you're sure to love this final picture from one of the most talented and prolific directors in cinema. A fine end to a stunning career, Before the Devil Knows Your Dead is a powerful film that is superbly well acted and directed. This a powerful work that is a fine end to Lumet's phenomenal career. What really stands out for this film is the powerful plot and acting. This is a film that only Sidney Lumet could have made. If you're a fan of Lumet's work, definitely give this one a shot, you won't be disappointed.
Super Reviewer
½ March 6, 2012
Before the Devil... is a gripping melodrama, the last film directed by a true American master, then 83 year old Sidney Lumet. It has a terrific script in the classic film noir vein, a stellar cast, it's filmed with precision and intensity, and is full of truth and is never predictable. The story of brothers, both at the end of their ropes financially and personally, who are driven to pull off a heist (they are not professional crooks) on the jewelry shop of their own parents. After the heist goes terribly wrong, things spin further and further out of control. What is amazing is that just as you think things can't get worse for the boys, it keeps going further and further downhill, to almost unbearable levels. Phillip Seymore Hoffman is the mastermind behind the operation, in a failing marriage with Marisa Tomei, addicted to heroin, having stolen from his company and living in a world of hurt. His brother, Ethan Hawke, ostensibly even more of a loser, is a divorced dad owing months of alimony to his angry ex (Amy Ryan) and sleeping with his brother's wife. Rosemary Harris and Albert Finney are the parents, who have more love for each other than for their ne'er do well sons. Look out for up and comer Michael Shannon as a sleazy blackmailer and the excellent Brian O'Byrne who is the dupe who is enlisted to pull off the heist. All are excellent, but I'd like to single out the tragic, surprising performance of the great Albert Finney as a confilcted, flawed, and angry patriarch. Tomei is great (looking, too she's often naked) but the script gives her less depth than the other characters. Hawke and Hoffman are the core of the film, and both do excellent, if characteristic work. Hoffman plays a bit more of an evil cad then he normally plays, and Hawke is his character in Training Day, gone sweaty and middle aged. The extreme elements set up by the script are hugely over the top, but it works, because of the supremely committed, intense and true acting and the total believability of the identifably banal settings (Westchester county and NYC) and the flawed human characters. The film has similarities to Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon, but it has much more melodrama, in the most positive spin of that word. This film stands in the Lumet canon alongside Dog Day, Network, Serpico, and 12 Angry Men, and does not seem like the work of an octagenarian. It's well worth your time.
Super Reviewer
June 2, 2011
"No one was supposed to get hurt"

It was supposed to go down perfect. It was supposed to be easy. But robberies never end up being as perfect as they are supposed to be. Before The Devil Knows You're Dead is another example of that. Hell, Lumet has done a robbery gone wrong before with Dog Day Afternoon. Before The Devil Knows You're Dead is a great movie and a great ending to Lumet's career. The film is done out of order, which can sometimes seem cheap and gimmicky. Here it doesn't. Everything works well in the order that Lumet wanted it to be shown. We see how the robbery went down in the second scene. From there we don't know where the story is going to go. It's unpredictable and that's what I loved about it. It wasn't a movie where you had a good idea what was going to happen in the next scene. I had no idea and that not knowing kept me in suspense for the entire film.

The film obviously has a talented director behind it with one of the best in the business, Sidney Lumet. The man is a complete genius. He brought us such classics as Network and Dog Day Afternoon. The movie also has one of my favorite actors in it and that would be Philip Seymour Hoffman. He's a terrific actor and he's as good as ever in his role here. He plays an out of control character perfectly. Another actor who I can take or leave, Ethan Hawke, gives probably is best performance. I wouldn't have thought he could pull a character like Hank off, but he does convincingly.

If the movie has a flaw it would be that one of the characters isn't completely wrapped up in the end. We don't know what happens to him in the end. Maybe we don't really need to know because the ideas of the movie are wrapped up. We see where greed, recklessness and bad decisions got the characters in the end and I believe that everything that we needed to see, we saw. 

This is probably my third favorite Lumet movie behind Dog Day Afternoon and Running On Empty. The man really did have an extraordinary career. I think him making a final masterpiece with Before The Devil... is quite fitting. 
Super Reviewer
January 2, 2011
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a psychological crime thriller,families dont come much more dysfunctional than the Hansons~!
It is the story of (Hoffman) and Nick (Ethan Hawke), two brothers who decide to rob their parents (Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris) jewelry shop to get some much needed cash, It is insured, Andy assures his doubtful brother, and they know the shop,so he thinks It will be the perfect crime they are in for a rude awakening. The robbery goes wrong 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..
i thought it was a good movie with a good cast.
Super Reviewer
July 30, 2009
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, Rosemary Harris, Marisa Tomei, Arija Bareikis, Paul Butler, Jack Fitz, Alex Emanuel

Director: Sidney Lumet

Summary: The perfect crime goes horribly wrong for brothers Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Hank (Ethan Hawke) when they botch a robbery of their parents' jewelry store.

My Thoughts: "The concept of the movie was fresh, and I liked how it played out with all the flash backs. But it was just to slow for me. Great acting by all. But what a waste of Marisa Tomei. Most of her (if not all) time on screen was spent with her in bed with one of the brothers. Waste of talent. Liked to have seen her with a bigger part, considering she was one of my reasons for watching the film. In the end it was well made but just OK for me."
Super Reviewer
February 4, 2010
What Lumet has given us here is a beautifully shot and terrifyingly well-acted film. There are two problems with it: it's plodding, and it features Marisa Tomei. There was a time I defended her against her many haters - she's a capable actress - but here more than in many other roles, she little more than her breasts. Is it just me, or are they getting a little ubiquitous... I'm thinking of The Wrestler, as well...

But this was to be a review of a movie, not a rack (haha). Philip Seymour Hoffman may be the best living actor. In this film, he runs through an incredible range of emotions (tiny spoiler) from high on heroin to blinded by rage to smooth talking manipulator to grieving son to jilted husband (not necessarily in that order). His performance is nearly matched by the slightly overcompensating Ethan Hawke and the surprisingly badass Albert Finney.

The colours and the lighting made the visuals incredible, and the non-linear style did jazz up a somewhat formulaic plot, but in my book this film gets high marks because it's more than a caper-gone-wrong flick, it's art. Jeez, kind of reminds of this other movie I've seen... Dog Day Something-or-other... it was directed by this guy Sidney... uh... Lumet, I believe it was?

Totally worth sitting through. Dark, daring and desperate film-making with characters to match. Highly recommend.
Super Reviewer
October 23, 2010
A riveting crazy movie. There are a ridiculous amount of flaws in this movie, but the performances are top-notch. I greatly recommend this movie.
Super Reviewer
June 18, 2009
acting is so solid. i am such a hoffman fan now. jsut wish they didnt use the same gimmicky flashback thing that vantage point used. no film should remind people of that turd.
Super Reviewer
½ October 27, 2009
Before the Devil Knows You're dead is a movie about misery and bad decisions. Misery leads to more misery, and bad decisions made because of misery, that in turn lead to even more misery.

The specific kind of misery involved here is the brand unique to families. Misery resulting because the poor relationships between father and son, husband and wife, and father and daughter. There may be a crime at the center of the plot, but it's never really the movie's focus.

The acting is as good as you expect. Seeing Hoffman and Tomei in the same movie was a treat, because they are two of my favorite people in Hollywood. There are no weak spots in the cast to think of. And the re-occuring theme music that plays from time to time in key scenes? Awesome.

Much of the movie moves at a slightly subdued pace, and I'm sure there are people who won't care for that. But when an intense scene does happen, you won't be able to look away.
Super Reviewer
½ October 10, 2009
Non-linear story telling making a mess of a crazy plot, time shifts are constant as the scenes change like a Tarantino flick. Eerie and depressing conclusions but the cast and performances are excellent. Family destroys itself in this film, terrible. Albert Finney's facial expressions are weeeirrd. Ethan Hawke makes some bizarre noises, and Marisa Tomei is always getting naked. Sidney's lost it!
Super Reviewer
½ September 5, 2009
Oh, I didn't really care for this one. The casting is desperately unimaginative (Hawke is a spineless crybaby, PSH yells a lot and is stressed, Marisa Tomei is an inconsequential sexpot) and the narrative is interlaced with hilariously bad ~flashbacks~, denoted with a hilariously shitty editing trick. Sidney Lumet probably watched a bunch of new movies and decided that chronological fuckery was the easiest way to modernize his material, which could have been made in 1975 and no one would have noticed.

The critical rapture over this movie frankly stuns me and I think that a lot of people were just poised to herald a RETURN TO FORM!!! for Mister Lumet. Also, I think this movie came at a time when public and critical fondness for Philip Seymour Hoffman was hitting a fever pitch, which may have sharpened the enthusiasm. I've since learned that I just don't care for him in what I've seen. He has, to my knowledge, exactly one good performance (The Savages) and in everything else he plays the same emasculated, Napoleonic sap. Anyone who will listen also knows my overwhelming hatred for Ethan Hawke. I choose to just perpetually associate him in my mind to Jesse from Before Sunrise/Sunset and then I'm not so angry. I've never seen Tomei in much but I think she's an interesting presence here, and though the movie is ultimately not concerned with her, it would also be weaker if she wasn't there. Unfortunately, her performance is wasted on what is one step above a stock character, just as the rest of these are. Chock full of ready-made daddy issues and fits of insecurity, we're somehow supposed to care that this fucked-up, uninteresting, unlikable family is devouring itself whole. It's more or less like watching a highbrow episode of Jerry Springer; entertaining on a primal level, but still base and obnoxious and furiously empty.
Super Reviewer
January 29, 2008
An extremely surprising find with possibly Ethan Hawke?s best performance to date, plus great performances from both Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Albert Finney. The flashbacks are a tad tiresome at times, but the editing of them are very clever in the storytelling. A unique angle for the ?robbery? theme films and one that just got better and better as it went on.
Super Reviewer
½ April 28, 2009
Watching Before The Devil counts as one of my all time best experiences at the cinema. I have been intrigued my the mixed response to the film - and for me, the extremes of opinion indicate the film touched on something either embraced or disavowed by the general audience. It is one of those films that has stayed with me, and I continue to ponder and think about it.

Surely the DVD would illuminate some more of the themes and the film-making elements? Which include: Sidney Lumet's comeback movie, the time-shifting technique deployed in the storytelling, the superb combination of Lumet and Masterson and why it works so well, the masterly direction, the relatively rare focus Hollywood movies give to male characters and their largely doomed struggle to become an open cheque book for their women, the under-presented, but nevertheless resonant Marisa Tomei's performance, and, of course, the superb Hoffman with that central monologue about the sum of his parts - for me the heart of the movie.

Phew! Surely a masterful film. So imagine my disappointment watching the eagerly anticipated DVD - only to find no commentary, no behind-the-scenes, no interviews, no extras.

Hey - distributors - sort it out!
Super Reviewer
April 27, 2009
good acting with an ok story. At least now I know what Hoffman looks like naked.
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