From the unexpectedly graphic opening shot, director Sidney Lumet proves he hasn’t lost any of his bite with age. BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD is a riveting suspense thriller that retains the director’s classic approach to storytelling while updating it at the same time. Working from an intense, expertly woven script by playwright-turned-screenwriter Kelly Masterson, Lumet establishes his tragic tone immediately. The story concerns a New York family with a roiling undercurrent of dysfunction. The eldest son, Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is a frustrated, drug-abusing stockbroker who is unable to satisfy his gorgeous wife (Marisa Tomei). The youngest son, Hank (Ethan Hawke), is passive and struggles to make alimony payments. Their parents (Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris) live in Westchester and operate a small jewelry store. Their lives begin to unravel when Andy approaches Hank about pulling off a heist that will seemingly solve all of their monetary problems. Everything about this idea is risky, yet Andy convinces his timid younger brother that this is his only way out of his current situation. Naturally, their plan falls apart, resulting in a series of tragedies that they never could have predicted. BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD belongs beside such Lumet classics as DOG DAY AFTERNOON, NETWORK, and SERPICO. The cinematography and editing and score are all excellent, but the performances are what launch the film into the stratosphere. Oscar-winner Hoffman (CAPOTE) and Finney have never been better, and the rest of the cast–Hawke, Tomei, Michael Shannon–rise to the occasion with unforgettable results.
At 83 director Sidney Lumet proves he is still relevant. With movies like “12 Angry Men,” “Serpico” and “Network” under his belt you won’t be surprised to hear that “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead” is a high intensity crime thriller. If someone told you that a movie about two brothers robbing a family owned jewelry store you’d figure it might be nothing more “Law & Order” making its theatrical debut. But the brilliance of the movie is the fact that such a seemingly simple premise becomes the blueprint for a movie that might be deemed a classic of its genre.
Hoffman and Hawke are brilliant in their rolls. Hawke proves he is better than most critics and viewers believe. Hoffman always delivers and often beyond the scope of the character. The many dimensions to the characters and the story keep you captivated throughout.
Enough can’t be said about the characters together and apart. Hawke brings it and Tomei is stunning. Hoffman is a classic and Albert Finney plays the role with such power you believe every moment. When you take such great performances and pack them into a script that is so tight and put together so brilliantly by one of the greatest directors of all time the mark is immeasurable. “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead” may not get its due today–but this will prove to be a classic.
Watch the trailer: