Friday, December 23, 2011

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is an insolvent real estate broker and his employee brother (Ethan Hawke) is doing much better. To relieve their financial woes, they decide to knockoff their parent's suburban jewelry store in an in-and-out kind of deal. But, of course, the job goes horribly awry and Andy's sexy wife (Marissa Tomei) and her revelations that she is sleeping with Hank, along with their father's (Albert Finney) tenacious pursuit of the culprits leads everything spiraling towards a bleak and tragic climax. "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" was the final film of legendary director Sidney Lumet ("12 Angry Men", "Network", "Dog Day Afternoon") and is a fitting sendoff for a filmmaker who specialized in gritty urban fare. Aside from the cheap, stark look of the film itself (which is probably intentional), this is a brilliantly acted and ingeniously constructed film. Having seen it once before, I was amazed how well Kelly Masterson's time jumping screenplay conceals a central secret for so long. The grim script is also carried out to perfection by a top cast led by an intense performance from P.S. Hoffman. Ethan Hawke, who is capable of good work, turns in one of his better performances here, as does Marissa Tomei as an aging siren fearing she is losing her looks. The great and often overlooked Albert Finney is in fine form in a wrought, operatic role.  "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" is a shattering and beyond bleak film that is a testament to its prodigious director.