BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD
BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD: NO POLLYANNAS HERE
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead shows what holding onto the last rung of the ladder in life looks like. It shows crossing the line of immorality just to survive and facing the consequences. It is not a happy go lucky film. Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico) doesn’t do fairy tales and this movie isn’t an exception.
Andy Hanson (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is about to get caught. He is stealing from the real estate company he works for. He is a drug addict. His little brother Hank (Ethan Hawke) works for the same company. He is in massive debt, owing child support and his daughter’s tuition money to his ex-wife. Both are in love with Gina (Marisa Tomei). Andy is married to her while Hank is having an affair with her. Andy suggests robbing their parents’ jewelry story. He justifies it by calling it a victimless crime. When Hank attempts the misdeed with a shady friend, it goes disastrously wrong. And it’s all down hill from there.
This is a depressing story that will only leave you sad. It’s about a dysfunctional family. Some of them are crooked. It is about a heist gone wrong. There is some predictability. And does Phillip Seymour Hoffman play any happy characters? (His former child actor role in Along Came Polly doesn’t count). His character’s desperation will choke you. You can feel the claustrophobia. Ethan Hawke hasn’t aged well. He’s pathetic as Hoffman’s baby brother. He’s a loser. It seems that Marisa Tomei is there to show her breasts and that’s it. It’s hard to believe that somebody like Tomei would marry somebody like Hoffman. The opening scene of the movie is the least sexy scene I have ever witnessed (I say witness because I felt like I was watching a crime). Albert Finney as Hoffman and Hawke’s father is heartbreaking. The last thirty minutes of the movie are the best. You see what desperation will push people to do. The last scene at Hoffman’s drug dealer’s apartment is explosive.
Throughout the movie it jumps from character to character and their perspectives. Annoying camera angles are used to transition this. It is supposed to be different and only comes off being distracting. And Marisa Tomei as the object of affection seems out of place.
This film reminded me of Leaving Las Vegas. Nicolas Cage received an Oscar for his role. But uplifting it is not. Same goes for Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. It is a serious drama that stands out due to its solid performances.