Review: ‘Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead’ – We Are Movie Geeks


Review: ‘Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead’

By  | 

Devil’s Leading Men


Sidney Lumet’s new film is an interesting take on the crime drama, by taking a small simple crime and examining the consequences of what can happen if everything went wrong. The movie is a very intimate look into the lives of everyone involved and can be even more intimate than most crime films due to the interconnections between all the characters we focus on.
The movie opens with Andy, Phillip Seymor Hoffman, having some raw powerful sex with his wife Gina, the very naked most of the time Marisa Tomei, and while seemingly a bit gratuitous at first, by the end of everything it is the reason that everything that happens in the film happens in the first place.
Also involved is Hank, Ethan Hawke, who is a divorced supporting dad who is a little short on cash all the time, as well as Charles, Albert Finney, the owner of a “ma and pa” jewelry store.
The second scene we see is the robbery itself, and when it goes south, Hank has to flee the scene, as he escapes we flash back 3 days using a cool little transition and this is how the story is told through out the film. Once Hank’s story catches back up to where it went back, we might see a bit more or we flashback to see one of the other three leads perspectives over roughly the same time frame. A few scenes overlap and based on what we learn from the flashback those scenes have a bit more weight and we see them from other angles the second time around.
The acting is top notch most of the time and there are some twists and turns as you go. Hoffman is the best here, because he is awesome, and he gets to work with a broad range of emotions and has the most going on as a character. His scenes/story is full of long takes and sadness compared to the others, and while good, can be hard to swallow sometimes. Hawke’s performance is the most frantic and plot driven, as he was directly a part of the robbery, and he does work as usual. Tomei is pretty much a naked sex craved woman the first half, but does a great job telling a lot about her relationship with Andy in the opening scene. We don’t divulge into her character that much and I think we missed out on some good material, especially with the relationship situation she is in and getting to see what she thought about everything could have been really interesting; we only get to see a touch of that in a really great scene towards the end. Finney is good as well most of the time, but he has some really awkward moments, and is sadly just getting to old I think. His mouth does some weird things and took me out of the movie a couple times. I know this sounds mean, but it was very visually distracting a couple times, especially in the climax, it looked like he was having a stroke or something.
In the end, the movie drags a bit occasionally but never long enough to disinterest and the story is compelling, engaging, and well thought out. The acting is good and there are occasional bits of laughter through out which help lighten the mood. But a bit of an open ending might upset some, but it works for me. In another year this movie might have faired better, but with so many good movies out right now it pales in comparison; definitely at least worth renting, and seek it out in theaters if your a crime fan, as its a interesting take on the genre.

(4 out of 5)


Director Sydney Lumet returns to form with Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, after what I consider to be one of the longest directorial droughts in movie history. It’s no surprise, however, that his return evokes movies like Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico, which made him an icon of 70’s cinema.

The story follows Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a washed up banker, as he drags his brother Hank (Ethan Hawke) into a personally disasterous criminal belly flop, which they hope will set them both free of their miserably unsatisfying lives. Hoffman is both frighteningly numb and pathetically desperate as a drug-addicted, financially drained bank employee who plots *spoiler* a robbery of his own parents’ jewelry store as a way to free himself and his wife (Marisa Tomei) from their empty suburban, middle-class lives.

The slightly non-linear story unfolds in a way that intrigues us with a slowly revealed trail of mishaps and consequences, which eventually lead to the ironicly poetic and disturbing climax. Everyone becomes a victom to Andy’s greed and self-loathing. Scenes are played with such emotional mastery, they are difficult to watch yet we cannot break ourselves from our attachment to these characters. We truly want to feel sympathy for Andy, but we are left at every turn hating him more. Certainly we will see Oscar nods for Hoffman, possibly for Hawke and maybe even for the screenplay.

(4.5 out of 5)

[rating: 4.25/5]

Hopeless film enthusiast; reborn comic book geek; artist; collector; cookie connoisseur; curious to no end