BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD (2007)
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is an immensely disturbing and tragic morality tale, which focuses on the consequences and repercussions of a sinister act driven by greed.
The film was written by first time screenwriter Kelly Masterson, who has done a tremendous job in crafting a powerfully emotional story, about the destruction of a family torn apart by sibling rivalry and vulgar selfishness. Masterson establishes her characters weaknesses and motives extremely well, and sets them down a path of no return and no retribution.
It opens smack bang in the middle of an extremely raunchy sex scene between Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his wife Gina (Marisa Tomei) whilst the couple are vacationing in Rio. This rare moment of domestic bliss was all that was needed to convince Andy that a life spent in Brazil would be a life spent in paradise. The only problem is he does not have the funds to set up such a move, especially with an expensive drug habit and a trophy wife to look after.
So he sets up the perfect heist to rob a suburban jewelry store owned by his parents (Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris), and ropes in his younger brother Hank (Ethan Hawke) - a divorced parent struggling to pay child support and school fees - to do the dirty work. Hank takes on an accomplice (Brian F. O'Byrne) who botches the robbery, resulting in his own death and the death of Andy and Hank's mother.
Two years after receiving a Honorary Academy Award for his impressive body of work (which includes 12 Angry Men & Dog Day Afternoon), 83 year old director and master storyteller Sidney Lumet has crafted a gripping and commanding film which adds to his late career resurgence - begun with 2006's Find Me Guilty - and leaves many of his younger cohorts lying in the dust. His talent and filmography has him up there with Scorsese, Coppola and Kubrick, yet he still continues to be frustratingly ignored as one of the best directors of all time.
Lumet's strength lies in drawing excellent performances from his actors. He has evoked career best work from Al Pacino and Paul Newman, and even made Vin Diesel come off as a thespian to be reckoned with. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is no different, as a talented cast deliver excellent turns.
Ethan Hawke and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are extraordinary, especially the latter who bares mind, body and soul in an emotionally charged performance, which should have seriously been considered for awards consideration. Albert Finney is great as the distraught husband who has vowed to find those responsible for his wife's death, and Marisa Tomei gives a shocking erotic performance, proving that sexy does not end after the age of 40.
The film is presented in a multi-perspective, over lapping structure, which is fine had editor Tom Swartwout not used a weird, grinding, screeching and above all irritating device to mark the films various segway's into new territories. Long time Coen Brothers cohort Carter Burwell provides a great score.