Thursday, March 05, 2009

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead


Sidney Lumet (now 84), has another winner with Before the Devil Knows Your Dead (2007). Based on Kelly Masterson's intelligent script, it features terrific performances by Marisa Tomei, Albert Finney, Ethan Hawk, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and the entire supporting cast (which includes Aleksa Palladino and Michael Shannon).

Brothers Andy (Hoffman) and Hank (Hawk) need money something bad, leading to a botched robbery of their own parents' jewelry store at a New York strip mall (Andy's drug-addled idea). In the hands of the Coen Brothers, this tale would be laced with mordant humor, but Lumet-Masterson unfold it like a Thomas Hardy tragedy. (Compare also with Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream, as Roger Ebert did last year).


Also, quite before The Wrestler, Marisa Tomei appears in the flesh, a much more agreeable sight than Hoffman unclothed. Hawk is quite effective as the more conscience-plagued brother, making him more likable even if he's also more befuddled and inept (paralleled in Cassandra's Dream via Colin Farrell's Terry).

The cast goes full throttle throughout, and there are some very nice directing touches (all sorts of angles and subtle points of view, as well as nifty flourishes with time and space). Shot in high definition video, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead has a slightly washed out look that emphasizes the desperation and tragedy of its characters.



Today's Rune: Initiation.

6 comments:

Beth said...

Good post, as always. I've been thinking about seeing this; now I will.

the walking man said...

May you get to heaven hours before...

Sidney said...

I need to watch this before it cycles off of Netflix's watch instantly.

jodi said...

Great director, great actors. I will check it out.

Lana Gramlich said...

Albert Finney? Ugh...

Distributorcap said...

anything hoffman does is good..... will have to watch this now