The full title of this film is 'May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows you're dead', a rewording of the old Irish toast 'May you have food and raiment, a soft pillow for your head; may you be 40 years in heaven, before the devil knows you're dead.' First time screenwriter Kelly Masterson (with some modifications by director Sidney Lumet) has concocted a melodrama that explores just how fragmented a family can become when external forces drive the members to unthinkable extremes. In this film the viewer is allowed to witness the gradual but nearly complete implosion of a family by a much used but, here, very sensible manipulation of the flashback/flash forward technique of storytelling. By repeatedly offering the differing vantages of each of the characters about the central incidents that drive this rather harrowing tale, we see all the motivations of the players in this case of a robbery gone very wrong.
Andy Hanson (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a wealthy executive, married to an emotionally needy Gina (Marisa Tomei), and addicted to an expensive drug habit. His life is beginning to crumble and he needs money. Andy's ne're-do-well younger brother Hank (Ethan Hawke) is a life in ruins - he is divorced from his shrewish wife Martha (Amy Ryan), is behind in alimony and child support, and has borrowed all he can from his friends, and he needs money. Andy proposes a low-key robbery of a small mall mom-and-pop jewelry store that promises safe, quick cash for both. The glitch is that the jewelry story belongs to the men's parents - Charles (Albert Finney) and Nanette (Rosemary Harris). Andy advances Hank some cash and wrangles an agreement that Hank will do the actual robbery, but though Hank agrees to the 'fail-safe' plan, he hires a friend to take on the actual job while Hank plans to be the driver of the getaway car. The robbery is horribly botched when Nanette, filing in for the regular clerk, shoots the robber and is herself shot in the mess. The disaster unveils many secrets about the fragile relationships of the family and when Nanette dies, Charles and Andy and Hank (and their respective partners) are driven to disastrous ends with surprises at every turn.
Each of the actors in this strong but emotionally acrid film gives superb performances, and while we have come to expect that from Hoffman, Hawke, Tomei, Finney, Ryan, and Harris, it is the wise hand of direction from Sidney Lumet that make this film so unforgettably powerful. It is not an easy film to watch, but it is a film that allows some bravura performances that demand our respect, a film that reminds us how fragile many families can be. Grady Harp, April 08
The contradictions, and especially the indulgences, in Sidney Lumet's Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead are queasily evident in the first and last scenes. In the first, which pops up as soon as the lights dim, we have a nude, pale, flabbily fat actor doing Pin the Tail on the Donkey with a nude actress on her knees, hips high, in front of him. The only image that came to mind was of a quivering Moby Dick throwing the harpoon at Mrs. Ahab. The last scene … more
Sidney Lumet, the acclaimed director responsible for "Serpico" and "12 Angry Men" returns with another thrilling slice of human drama in "BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD". The man definitely knows how to make a melodrama seem thrilling and immersive. I'm not going to argue with him, Lumet insists that this film is a melodrama rather than a crime thriller. Melodramas is one of the most underestimated genres in film. Whatever genre it may be under, the script by Kelly … more
Brothers Andy (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) and Hank (Ethan Hawke) are in desperate need of money and come up with a fool-proof way to get it: They'll rob a small jewelry store. The catch: It's their parents' store. Wow. I'll say it again: Wow. This movie is the most powerful and exciting film I've seen in a long time. The acting is outstanding, the script is clever and full of surprises, and the direction by Sidney Lumet is superb. Supporting the two stars are … more
review by christytilleryfrench.
September 28, 2009
Andy Hanson (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his brother Hank (Ethan Hawke) have financial problems. Hank's ex-wife never lets up about the child support he owes and Andy has been embezzling money from his company. Andy's wife, Gina (Marisa Tomei) is depressed and pressures him to move to Brazil, where she believes all their troubles will be over. She's also having an affair with Hank. Andy devises a scheme to steal from their parents' small jewelry store and convinces Hank to perform the burglary. … more
All this fancy flip-flopping fore and aft in time, showing every scene twice, might save money on script but it couldn't save a scrawny turkey like "Before the Box Office Knows You're Dead" on the day after Thanksgiving. It's been done, dudes! Get a new gimmick! I hope they paid Philip Seymour Hoffman a bundle for this humiliation. He's a great actor but his freckled b_tt does nothing for me.
Pros: Pacing and narrative Cons: Story as a whole and weak performances The Bottom Line: If you like the actors, then skip this one. If you like different narrative styles, this one will not disappoint. Still only average at best. Recommended with reservations. Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. Sidney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead isn’t a whodunit. … more
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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Sidney Lumet’sBefore the Devil Knows You’re Deadis an exceptionally dark story about a crime gone wrong and the complicated reasons behind it. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke are outstanding as brothers whose mutual love-hate relationship subtly colors their agreement to rob their own parents’ jewelry store, and more explicitly affects the anxious aftermath of their villainy when their mother (Rosemary Harris) ends up shot. Hoffman’s steely, emotionally locked-up Andy, despite pulling down six figures as a corporate executive, is supporting an expensive drug habit while trying to leave the country with his depressed wife, Gina (Marisa Tomei). Hank (Hawke), a whipped dog of low intelligence, owes back alimony and child support to his ex-spouse. Both men need money and agree to rip off their parents' business, a decision that goes awry and puts both men in various kinds of jeopardy while their mother remains comatose and their father (Albert Finney) lurches along trying to make sense of anything. Writer Kelly Masterson's screenplay employs a perhaps now-overly-familiar time-shifting tactic, jumping around the chronology of the story's events and replaying scenes from different vantage points. The effect is a little tedious but successfully deconstructs the film's drama in a way that shows how such terrible events are directly linked to family dysfunction, old wounds between parent and child, between siblings, that fester into ...