Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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!