Film review: Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007), directed by Sidney Lumet
Junkie Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is strapped for cash and talks his perpetual loser of a brother, Hank (Ethan Hawke), into robbing a jewellery store – their elderly parents’ jewellery store. How else do you get your hands on quick cash so you can skip town for Brazil before the company finds out you’re embezzling?
The plan is to hit the store first thing before it’s opened on a Saturday morning. There’s only poor old Doris in there, no one’s going to get hurt, and their parents will get money back from their insurance.
Hank can’t go through with it on his own so he hires Bobby (Brían F O’Byrne), an acquaintance who happens to be a bit of an expert in the field. Hank is just supposed to drive the getaway car.
As it turns out, old Doris couldn’t come in that day so instead it’s the brothers’ mother (Rosemary Harris) tending the shop … and Murphy’s Law comes into effect.
Also starring Albert Finney as the father, Marisa Tomei as Gina, Amy Ryan as Martha, Sarah Livingston as Danielle, Aleksa Palladino as Chris, and Michael Shannon as Dex.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is the last film by director Sidney Lumet. The acting is good, the directing is good, and I wanted to punch the brothers in the face so much, but I didn’t like the film as a whole. (Soz, Mr Lumet.)
It’s an interesting story, but the chronology keeps jumping around so it’s not the sort of film you can watch if you’re not completely awake and alert or you’ll definitely won’t have a clue what the heck is going on.
Besides, it’s really depressing.
One screw-up brother talks another screw-up brother man into robbing THEIR OWN PARENTS’ store. What kind of a low-life scum do you have to be to do something like that?! I guess we were meant to sympathise with Hank, of sorts, but he’s not a likeable character either. It kind of makes you wonder what the parents were doing raising these guys if this is how they both turned out.
It got to the end and I thought “finally!”, which is also pretty much how I reacted after the first scene was over. The film opens with Andy and Gina mid-coitus, which wasn’t a particularly appetising sight, shall we say?
On the plus side, I do like the fact that when an actor passes away, the TV networks decide to show some of their films. Philip Seymour Hoffman was a wonderful actor, and while he always seems to play ginormous tossers regardless of film – at least some of the films are a more entertaining watch, like Mission: Impossible 3, or Along Came Polly. I’m not saying those are necessarily great films, just that I was less bored and appalled while watching them.
2.5 out of 5 botched robberies.