All in the Family: Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is a gripping thriller about two brothers whose decision to rob their own parents’ jewelery store has dangerous and violent repercussions.

Starring Ethan Hawke, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei and Albert Finney
Written by Kelly Masterson
Distributed by THINKfilm
Directed by Sidney Lumet
117 minutes

I have no idea why Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead wasn’t more of a commercial success when in was released in 2007.   With a brilliant script, A-list actors and the legendary director Sidney Lumet at the helm, this film has become one of my all time favourite thrillers.

Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Hank (Ethan Hawke) were two spoiled middle class brothers who each in their own way became dysfunctional, emotionally stunted adults.   Andy has risen quickly in the ranks of his company and is the seemingly more successful of the two brothers.   But Andy has a secret: he’s been stealing company money to satisfy his growing drug habit and to spoil his depressed trophy wife Gina (Marissa Tomei).

Hank meanwhile has become a loser with no backbone, not able to keep a decent job or stand up to his ex-wife, Hank is danger of not being able to see his daughter because he can’t provide steady child support payments.

With both brothers in desperate need for money, Andy comes up with a plan: why not put on a ski mask and rob their parents’ jewellery store?   They know the layout of the place after all, they know where the safe is,where the cameras are – it would all be so simple right?   Obviously we all know the answer to that is a big fat no.

With use of non-linear storytelling, the script explores the hatched plan, the botched robbery and the shocking aftermath out of sequence smartly and thankfully in a way that’s still easy to follow.   The use of non-linear storytelling makes the plot of robbery gone wrong seem fresh and innovate.

Hawke and Hoffman are great in their scenes together, playing off each other’s anger and shock well.   I know this might be funny to say, but it’s nice to see Ethan Hawke NOT play his standard role of pretentious artist-type, but rather a sad pathetic follower.   And Hoffman has proven (to me at least) throughout his career that whether he’s playing Capote or a coked out thief, he’s always amazing.

Marissa Tomei unfortunately is little more then the hot girl in the background here.   Don’t get me wrong, she does the hot girl thing VERY well, but I wish she had more to do.

The absolute best scenes in the film are between Hoffman and the brothers’ father Charles (Albert Finney).   The seething and barely contained resentment between father and son is some brilliant, brilliant acting.   The two are the key players in the climax of this film and let me tell you its one of the most shocking endings you’ll ever see in a thriller.   In this family, the kids are definitely not alright.

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