“Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”

After Sidney Lumet’s return to directing last year with indie film Find Me Guilty, many people thought that he would stay an independent director. Well at the moment, that seems to be where he’s staying, which in this case is a very good thing.

His vision for this very simple idea turned the film into a very interesting ordeal. As we all know, certain films couldn’t be the same without Lumet’s immaculate direction. This is one of those films. He turns the already intense script into a film that is about harsh realization of the world, and the people that inhabit it.

The screenplay was written by one of the year’s many new talents, Kelly Masterson. The script about 2 brothers that rob a jewelry story, and it all goes wrong sounds quite cliched, but this script follows a different track then one would expect. Turn after turn, this film contains some of the most appealing ideas of the year. Along with this, the 2 brothers are very, very well written, but sadly the rest of the cast is written fairly bland-like. This is diappointing for the fans of Marisa Tomei, who’s character is on the screen for about 10 minutes of the entire film. Other than this flaw, the whole premise is wonderful, and I hope to see more of this person’s work, when they do more that is.

A warning to all : This is NOT a bang-bang shoot ’em up type flick. There is very limited violence.

The acting of this tremendous ensemble cast is great. From the powerhouse performance of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, to the subtle performance of Albert Finney, the main actors all do a wonderful job.We’ll start with the disappointingly short performance by Marisa Tomei. Along with the sad fact she is in the film for less than 10% of it, she also doesn’t have much to work with. For every scene with dialog and meaning she has, there are 2 with her just topless, listening to the other characters. The only good thing that came out of this whole ‘character’ was that Tomei made the role at least bearable.

Onto Albert Finney’s great work as “Charles“, the father of the 2 brothers. He has a fair amount of screentime, slightly less than Ethan Hawke’s amount of screen. His character is very well written, and all a lot of the plot is what gives him so much to work with. He goes through a wide variety of emotions in a short, but considerable amount of time, which adds to the pleasure of watching the movie. Overall, this is just another great performance to add to his already outstanding resume, and if the Academy is going to go all veteran-nominated this year, Finney should be way up there for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Even though Ethan Hawke’s role as “Hank” is played off as one of the leading roles, I’d consider him borderline leading, only because more of the story is devoted to Hoffman’s character and his life. Anyways, Hawke’s character is the most complex in the whole film. A brother that witnesses a horrible tragedy, and the events that ensue afterwards makes his character all the more interesting. This role is also quite the change in character for Hawke, so it was surprising to see him pull of the role with such poise. Delivering every heartbroken line with sorrow in one scene, and screaming out his pain in another, this role is very versatile, and Hawke just nails it. Since Before Sunrise, we’ve known Ethan Hawke has immense talent, and this film just shows it further.

Onto the performance of the film, and the main reason I caught this in the first place. This reason is Phillip Seymour Hoffman as “Andy“. This role is written very well, but the character doesn’t go through many changes at all. He basically is just angry a lot of the time, insincere, oddly humorous and at times ponders situations. Well, for such a compact character, Hoffman finds away to make him the most interesting of the cast. He captivates the audience with his quick transitions; going from playful to over the top anger. Basically what I’m saying is his mere presence on the screen makes you drop your jaw, because he has an very vibrant way to him that makes you sympathize for him, even if you know he is in the wrong. As well know, Phillip Seymour Hoffman can do so much with so little, and in this film he shows what he can do when that little is just slightly bigger.

There weren’t many technical aspects to work with, but when ‘techs’ were important, the technical team really came through. The first of the two standouts in the field for this film was the score, done by Carter Burwell. Innovative, captivating, but yet not good enough to garner a nomination as of now in the year. Too strong a category for me, but hopefully the academy will recognize his genius… someday. To conclude my review, the most outstanding tech of the film was the film editing, because without it, the film would not have been as original without it.

Nominations for Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Phillip Seymour Hoffman (#2) (could be my win. i need to think about it more)
Best Original Screenplay – Kelly Masterson (#5)
Best Film Editing – (#1!)

3 Nominations and 1 Win.

Rating : 8.5/10


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