Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Director: Sidney Lumet
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, Albert Finney, Rosemary Harris
MPAA: Rated R
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is one of those movies you don't hear too much about in public. Its sort of a low budget film that hardly drew in alot of crowd which is kind of weird considering how many talented actors are in it. I had no idea this movie even existed because I haven't even seen one trailer or TV spot for it. It was only recently that one of my friends had mentioned it to me and thought I should check it out. After looking at a couple reviews and staring at its impressive cast, I had to take a look.
Andrew (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Henry (Ethan Hawke) plan to rob their own parent's jewelry shop. Andrew plans the robbery and Henry hires an unknown waiter to carry out the robbery for him. Things go wrong and the mother is shot dead. Because the police are ineffective, the father Charles Hanson (Albert Finney) tries to investigate the crime himself. Henry is blackmailed by the waiter's wife Chris (Aleksa Palladino) and her brother Dex (Michael Shannon) to give a bounty of US $ 10,000 in return of keeping his name away from police.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead has a great story. I really wasn't expecting too much from the story and yet it surprised me. Just looking at the plot outline, you may think the story is simple and not much too it, but you would be wrong. The movie is played mostly in timed flashbacks. The story is scattered in these flashbacks and explain each part carefully. This isn't new and has been done in films like Pulp Fiction. While I usually don't care too much about this because I rather enjoy movies like this. I think it keeps the viewer very much interested in the plot even though it really isn't necessary since the movie could have worked without it. The film is also filled with many twists and turns that really add alot to this dark story. There isn't much character development so the characters can tend to be almost forgettable. The movie also has a pretty unsatisfying ending. It isn't explained much and could have easily been better.
The cast for the film is top notch and something to look forward too. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays as Andy and he gives a brilliant performance here. I'm a big fan of Hoffman and think hes one of today's talented actors. His performance here is riveting and very believable. Ethan Hawke plays as Hank and he too gives a good performance. He has good screen time with Hoffman and easily stands by him. I kind of felt like his performance here mirrored the one in Training Day, but that's not a bad thing since I enjoyed that movie. Marisa Tomei plays as Gina and I enjoyed her work here. I did however think she was better in some of her other films, but I cant really complain. Seeing a couple of her nipple shots is more than ok with me. We also have Albert Finney playing as Charles. Hes been great in many of his previous films and does a fine job here. A performance that's very much enjoyable and one that works.
The visual look for Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is dark. The movie was just released a year ago so its film source is pretty much clean. I couldn't detect any grain which shouldn't be a surprise because the film was shot with HD cameras. Colors look alittle muted and oversaturated. The film doesn't have any vibrant or colorful scenes nor does it need it. The color palate seems fine to me and really adds another layer to the experience. Sure their are some scenes that tend to look slightly dark, but it only adds to the films atmosphere. Detail is pretty good with close up shots revealing alot of clarity to them. We get many scenes where it shows our characters talking and you can really see the detail on their face. There are some soft shots mostly in the darker scenes that tend to look not as good as others, but when the film is mostly in well lighted areas, it can look pretty good.
The soundtrack for the film is great. Famous composer Carter Burwell who also scored Being John Malkovich for Universal and Adaptation. for Columbia Pictures does a fine job here. The movies got a mesmerizing score that gives you the feeling like your watching a murder happen. Its very well made and used alot through out the movie. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead doesn't feature a whole lot of bass considering its a melodramatic crime thriller, but whats there is fine enough. While the movie doesn't have much bass to show off, dialogue is very cleaned up. You can hear everyone in the movie loud and clear. It isn't something that's going to wow you or anything, but I happen to find that great since this is a heavy dialogue driven film.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a great movie that's definitely up their with some of Sidney Lumet's other classic hits like 12 Angry Men or Dog Day Afternoon. Even though the ending could have been better, the story is interesting and captivating. The cast is phenomenal with Hoffman giving another excellent performance. The visual style for the film is very much dark with muted colors, but it works. The soundtrack is lively and strongly goes well with the movie. I think Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a fascinating movie. I was very much pulled by its gripping story and talented performances. Id easily recommend this film to those familiar with Lumets previous films or for those looking for a great movie.