Before the Devil Knows You're Dead ***
Directed by Sidney Lumet
"May you be in heaven half an hour, before the devil knows you're dead."
-Old Irish Toast
Sidney Lumet is quite an icon, and I bet that every film fan has at least one of his movies on their Top 100 of all time. While "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" won't end up on any Top 10's, 50's, 100's, or even 1000's best movies of all time, it is a very entertaining and well made and diverting crime drama. I find it funny how all of these popular directors have been making crime films-Scorsese with "The Departed," Lumet with this, and Ridley Scott has "American Gangster" coming out now. This is far from the best, but it is fun, and intriguing, and even though bleak-very very entertaining.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman stars in the second film of the festival-the other being "The Savages"-as Andy, a sleazy businessman who has a heroin addiction. When his wife Gina-played by Marisa Tomei-wants to get out of the city and into the calm life of South America, Andy gets an idea. There is his brother Hank-played by Ethan Hawke, who I can't understand why he still gets work, a down on his luck man who has no money to pay for his daughter's schooling. His estranged wife is not pleased about that at all. Andy tells him his plan. They rob a mom and pop jewelry store-no guns, simple, insurance pays for it. The twist is-it's their parents.
That is all I'll say about the film, because it is really is good for it to unfold before you. The movie is told in non-linear ways-jumping before, during, and after the robbery, and following the paths of Andy, Hank, and Charles-their father played by a Lumet vet Albert Finney. Lumet directs each character in a different way depending on their personality. The scenes with Hank are editing more, they are quicker, depicting his frantic and paranoid mood. The scenes with Andy are more laid back, often done in long takes, following him as he calmly walks around the room he is in. They are slower, similar to the ones with Charles, which is even more interesting because as father and son, Andy often complains that he felt distant from his family growing up. I think I could have used more with the Tomei character-she is seen as a typical crime drama sex object, naked in the first three times she is on screen. Not a complain for the eyes, but for story flow its a problem.
I have a huge problem with the music, which makes this seem like a B-crime drama. It was overdone and completely eye rolling. It ruined what could have been more powerful scenes. I waited during the credits to see who did the music, and was shocked to see Carter Burwell-who did some great work in 'Adaptation" and "Fargo"-to be doing something like this. The film is entertaining and enjoyable-there are some plot twists you won't see coming, and as it unfolds you really start to get into it. Hoffman is terrific as usual, and Finney is good as well. Hawke is the only wild card, but thats expected from him.