Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Holy shit….. what a movie! This is a dark, nasty, riveting tale that one could easily imagine in the Coen Brother’s hands working as vicious black comedy. Director Sidney Lumet has instead played it lean, mean and without a trace of sentimentality. The acting is controlled and believable with standout performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei and Albert Finney. Carter Burwell's score is extraodinary and the script is complex without being convoluted.
The less you know about the plot going in the better. Without giving too much away, two brothers, whose lives are spiraling out of control for different reasons, fashion a harebrained scheme to rob their parent’s suburban jewelry store. Everything goes wrong and through a series of timeline jumps we see the events unfold from several different perspectives. Lumet is back in Gotham territory here (Serpico, Prince of the City, Network) and at 83 years old, has created a spellbinding adaptation of Kelly Masterson’s terrific first screenplay. Masterson is a name we will no doubt hear again if this script is any indication.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is one of those films that ties you up in big knots. The walls close in relentlessly on these poor bastards and you know early on that there’s no way out. I squirmed, fidgeted and grimaced from start to finish watching these characters circle the bowl and loved every second of it. This is a film noir fan’s dream movie. Everybody is fucked and has to pay. It’s the flip side of the American dream baby but what a beautiful nightmare it is. A balls-to-the-wall tragedy of Shakespearian proportions pulled off with confidence and guts. Far and away the toughest film I’ve seen in a long, long time and excellent on every level.