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.