Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (R)

Drama 117 November 2, 2007
By J. Hoberman
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is less Sidney Lumet's comeback than his resurrection, a violent family melodrama that is his strongest movie in at least two decades. It pivots on the relationship between two unlikely brothers — the manipulative elder and weak-willed younger. Hank (Ethan Hawke) is a deadbeat dad perpetually behind on his child-support payments and regularly browbeaten by his singularly vindictive ex-wife (Amy Ryan). Indeed, it seems to be the money that his young daughter needs for a class outing to see The Lion King that pushes hapless Hank into joining his smooth-talking older brother Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in a scheme to rob their parents' Westchester jewelry store. To add to the familial intrigue, Hank is carrying on an affair with Andy's restless trophy wife, Gina (Marisa Tomei), and Andy hates his father, Charlie, played by Albert Finney. This is a movie with a surplus of agonized male grimacing. There are some scenes in which Hawke's face is contorted beyond recognition and others in which he and Hoffman seem on the verge of upchucking from the stress. Shot like a bleary morning after, full of powerhouse scenes and over-the-top situations in nondescript locales, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a pulverizing experience.
Sidney Lumet Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, Albert Finney, Rosemary Harris Kelly Masterson Michael Cerenzie, William S. Gilmore, Brian Linse, Paul Parmar ThinkFilm