Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Film

Thrillers

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Posted: Mon Jan 7 2008

Sidney Lumet’s latest begins with a sex scene raunchy enough to feel unexpected from this director, who’s now well into his 80s; still more surprising, however, is the deftly played post-coital conversation that follows, which reveals that any assumptions made as to the illicit nature of the relationship on screen were a little premature. That undercutting of expectations is characteristic of a subtle, engrossing film which repeatedly insists that life’s far more messily complicated than we’re generally led to believe by the conventions of mainstream cinema.

The next scene, an almost unbearably tense robbery at a suburban New York jewellery store, is key: not only does it end disastrously, but it’s the starting point for a rewarding investigation into the lives of those affected by the crime, among them brothers Andy and Hank Hanson (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke), their parents Charles and Nanette (Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris), and Andy’s wife Gina (Marisa Tomei). As the narrative flashes back and forth to reveal the pressures, problems, frustrations and tensions affecting these and other characters, not only does the heist come into sharper focus, but a tangled knot of secrets, lies and betrayals unravels. To reveal more would spoil the enjoyment (careful how you read other reviews!); suffice to say that Lumet, scriptwriter Kelly Masterson and an excellent cast ensure that the various characters and relationships soon attain a texture more akin to real life than Hollywood stereotyping, so that the later, more extreme scenes stretch credibility only slightly. Superior fare, packed with insight and suspense.

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Release details

UK release:

Fri Jan 11, 2008

Cast and crew

Cast:

Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney

Director:

Sidney Lumet

Music:

Carter Burwell

Cinematography:

Ron Fortunato

Screenwriter:

Kelly Masterson

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:10
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|28
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goodis

Bluesdoctor, I'm sure I've never seen anyone so completely miss the point of a film as you just have. This film is undoubtedly destined to be another of those criminally ignored & underrated modern noir masterpieces like "The kill-off" and "After dark my sweet". It's all bleak existential nihilism, with a dash of fatalistic futility. And it's impossibly beautifully sad. It also has an amazing emotional resonance which is uncommon in noir. If you can't see that then you're as heartless as the abyss you're about to fall into.

goodis

Bluesdoctor, I'm sure I've never seen anyone so completely miss the point of a film as you just have. This film is undoubtedly destined to be another of those criminally ignored & underrated modern noir masterpieces like "The kill-off" and "After dark my sweet". It's all bleak existential nihilism, with a dash of fatalistic futility. And it's impossibly beautifully sad. It also has an amazing emotional resonance which is uncommon in noir. If you can't see that then you're as heartless as the abyss you're about to fall into.

Bocio

Superior contemporary drama and probably Lumet's masterwork. Long life to Albert Finney! A must see.

Bocio

Superior contemporary drama and probably Lumet's masterwork. Long life to Albert Finney! A must see.

tom nagle

For those of you who watched this film--did the Ethan Hawke character not know that that was his father's car which drove past him in the parking lot of the strip mall? Surely he should recognize it and realize that something was fishy because "Gloria" was supposed to work that saturday. Also, even if my son were a murderer and inadvertently killed my wife, I don't think I could kill him in cold blood. Could YOU?

Sean Ellis

For me, this film achieves something that's relatively rare in cinema today. It refuses to pander to the audience and to pay off the emotional investment with the usual easy answers and neat resolutions. That feature will alienate those who only feel at home within the comfort zone of the mainstream, but for the rest this is a really tense and absorbing study of a very disfunctional family caving in under the pressures of life in modern America.

Sean Ellis

For me, this film achieves something that's relatively rare in cinema today. It refuses to pander to the audience and to pay off the emotional investment with the usual easy answers and neat resolutions. That feature will alienate those who only feel at home within the comfort zone of the mainstream, but for the rest this is a really tense and absorbing study of a very disfunctional family caving in under the pressures of life in modern America.

sandy

Really good film, mainly because of the acting. The real suprise for me is Ethan Hawke, an actor I have usually no time for. He gives a masterclass in bricking it all the way through the film. His drunken, anxiety fuelled, breakdown is the best performance I've seen all year. Followed very closely by Hoffman's deeply troubled older brother, a walking time bomb of drugs and repressed emotion. Check the scene in the bar with him punching the table, you know by the end of this film he is going to unleash a tidal wave of fury at someone/something. If you like your thrillers pitch black and hardboiled then this one's for you. (I'm not even going to mention Albert Finney in the last scene! Sweet dreams...)

sandy

Really good film, mainly because of the acting. The real suprise for me is Ethan Hawke, an actor I have usually no time for. He gives a masterclass in bricking it all the way through the film. His drunken, anxiety fuelled, breakdown is the best performance I've seen all year. Followed very closely by Hoffman's deeply troubled older brother, a walking time bomb of drugs and repressed emotion. Check the scene in the bar with him punching the table, you know by the end of this film he is going to unleash a tidal wave of fury at someone/something. If you like your thrillers pitch black and hardboiled then this one's for you. (I'm not even going to mention Albert Finney in the last scene! Sweet dreams...)

critique

Absorbing tale of the evil that men can do in pursuit of the dirty dollar, littered with unpleasant characters but very competently made.

Belva

the film was about as useful as wet toilet paper. it reminded me of making love to my dead gran, it was cold and morally discomforting!!

Michael

This is a truly deadful film. It glorifies the need to acquire the Dollar at any cost, to the extent where people would be prepared to kill their own parents or siblings. Because this movie is in the hands of a skilful director, it would almost have you believe that this type of behaviour is 'normal'. Avoid this film at any price and go instead to see the same director's '12 Angry Men'. It is hard to believe his 1957 masterpiece is from the same stable as this shallow work.

Lucy

This was the worst film I’ve seen in ages. None of the characters were likeable – they were all ignorant, boring and depressing people. They were the worst stereotype of ungrateful, money-orientated and clueless North Americans. If that was supposed to teach us something about real life, it didn’t. In my experience in life, most people have a lot more character and reason to live than anyone in this film. The scenes were not tense and exciting as some reviews said – I was so bored I nearly walked out but didn’t as I kept hoping it would get better – it didn’t. As for the title – it is an Irish blessing which is meant to wish someone well, so I don’t really understand how that fits with the film – any ideas?!

Sutton

A very good film, superb acting and a warning on how not to carry out a robbery. Hoffman was superb, definetely worth seeing though uncomfortable viewing at times.

Sutton

A very good film, superb acting and a warning on how not to carry out a robbery. Hoffman was superb, definetely worth seeing though uncomfortable viewing at times.

Gregster

Two hours of intensity and grating moral discomfort in this excellently acted and directed film. Those reviewers who didnt identify with the characters are perhaps younger than the intended audience for this. Burned-out thirty-somethings desparate for a way out of mundane office life should be have no problem with the characters.

Gregster

Two hours of intensity and grating moral discomfort in this excellently acted and directed film. Those reviewers who didnt identify with the characters are perhaps younger than the intended audience for this. Burned-out thirty-somethings desparate for a way out of mundane office life should be have no problem with the characters.

Paul

A tedious film for me too, despite good cast. Really gave up caring how it would finiish or for the characters. Go see Charlie Wilson instead.

carl

Agree completely with your review but must point out that the script is by Kelly Masterson - Michael Cerenzie is one of the producers. Anyway, excellent film

carl

Agree completely with your review but must point out that the script is by Kelly Masterson - Michael Cerenzie is one of the producers. Anyway, excellent film

Pete

The old adage - when you're in a hole stop digging - applies in spades to the Hanson brothers who contrive to solve their financial problems by robbing a mom and pop jewel store in an out of the way mall. They undoubtedly choose the wrong store at the wrong time and reap an increasingly depressing turmoil of disasters for their families coupled with heavy collateral damage to anyone vaguely in the vicinity of their outrageous actions. The movie appears painfully devoid of the post-production sexing up of the film as shot - the atmosphere seems all too real and tedious as much of suburban US is in reality. The script is clever and believable in a true lives way but, oh boy - this is a very depressing film.

Peter

Excellent!!! You MUST see this film, I was amazed with the feeling you have watching this!

Peter

Excellent!!! You MUST see this film, I was amazed with the feeling you have watching this!

bluesdoctor

This is “Fargo� without any of the wit, black humor, or intelligence, without any of the sexy violence: Family turns on itself for direly needed cash, setting loose the latent evil that has been festering below the surface for decades, only to implode, leaving a trail of corpses. Major problem: I for one didn’t give a damn about any of the characters. These are snakes, folks, cold phony little bastards who need to be run over by a train ASAP. So what if their lives go down the drain? They didn’t have lives to begin with. The movie chops up the time line, butchers continuity. Movies ain’t novels. They live in, are prisoners of, The Moment. Flashbacks destroy their momentum, their forward thrust, and have to be used very sparingly, as brief asides. But here, for no real good reason, other than for artsy-fartsy self-conscious self-indulgence, the movie hops around time, intrusively changing POV, from character to character, instead of interweaving their lives with any semblance of skill. We do not need titles that flash on the screen proclaiming “Andy four days earlier.� Too bad Marisa Tomei has been reduced to prancing around naked to get a role (nice bod, tho). A dissolute flabby old goat, Albert Finney stumbles about, mouth open as if to catch flies. Amy Ryan, so spot-on perfect in “Gone Baby Gone,� is a complete drag, a cut-out stock character, the disgruntled ex, her underutilization an indication of the director’s ineptitude. Philip Hoffman is the critics’ pet, condemned to the purgatory of minor movies such as this that the majority of Americans will never see. Sidney Lumet must be in his second childhood.