Monday, January 3, 2011

It Gets Ugly in Fine "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 24 (of 2008) by Leroy Douresseaux

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)
Running time: 117 minutes (1 hour, 57 minutes)
MPAA – R for a scene of strong graphic sexuality, nudity, violence, drug use, and language
DIRECTOR: Sidney Lumet
WRITER: Kelly Masterson
PRODUCERS: Michael Cerenzie, William S. Gilmore, Brian Linse, and Paul Parmar
EDITOR: Tom Swartwout


Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei, Rosemary Harris, Aleksa Palladino, Amy Ryan, Michael Shannon, and Brian F. O’Byrne

Andrew “Andy” Hanson (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his brother, Henry “Hank” Hanson (Ethan Hawke), plot to rob their parents’ jewelry store, Hanson Jewelers. Hank is also sleeping with Andy’s wife, Gina (Marisa Tomei). Charles Hanson (Albert Finney) and his wife, Nanette (Rosemary Harris), have no idea what their prodigal sons are plotting. When the job goes horribly wrong, the botched robbery triggers off a series of events that sends the brothers, their associates, and their family towards a shattering climax.

Famed director Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon) was 82-years-old when he directed the riveting crime drama, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. [The title comes from the old Irish saying, “May you be in heaven a full half hour before the devil knows you’re dead.”] Yet the five-time Oscar nominee for “Best Director” (and winner of an Honorary Oscar) seems as fresh today as he did half a century ago. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is a mesmerizing, raw open wound that examines the murderous extents to which desperate people will go, the complicated dynamics of parent/child relationships, and sibling rivalries.

Much of Lumet’s reputation as a director is built around his ability to get intense, riveting, and memorable performances out of actors. Everyone in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is at the top of his game, even the smaller parts. The usually-fine Albert Finney surprises with a compelling performance that delivers a gut punch. The underrated Ethan Hawke subtly and slyly delivers Hank Hanson in a way that is as funny as it is heart-wrenching. It’s Hawke’s way of revealing how pathetic Hank is.

Philip Seymour Hoffman made 2007 a banner year for him by giving three superb performances in a diversity of roles (in such films as Charlie Wilson’s War and The Savages). Here, his Andy Hanson is a tightly-wound thief and addict capable of sincere emotion and unexpected emotional outbursts. Hoffman simply presents that in unique ways that enhance the drama rather than detract from it with a showy performance.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is similar to Fargo, Joel and Ethan Coen’s Oscar-winning 1996 film about a plot to kill family for money. Devil may lack Fargo’s dry wit, black humor, and wacky imagination, but Devil goes deeper into the dark heart of an angry family. Lumet and company really let the ugly be ugly.

7 of 10

Saturday, May 10, 2008

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