Veteran and master filmmaker Sidney Lumet (we would particularly recommend Network and Dog Day Afternoon) directs this melodrama/thriller, from a script by playwright-turned-screenwriter Kelly Masterson. The title comes from an Irish saying, "may you be in heaven half an hour before the Devil knows you're dead"… point being that few of our souls would come up spotless if Mr Satan got the chance to check it out. This is the story of a divided New York family, and two brothers who attempt to pull off a perfect, victimless crime in order to save their monetary woes.
Features a spine tingling cast; Philip Seymour Hoffman is Andy, a frustrated, drug-abusing stockbroker who is unable to please his wife Gina – played by Marisa Tomei. Gina’s lover is Andy’s brother; the broke Hank – played by Ethan Hawk. Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris, the brother’s parents, run a jewelry store.
The crime, a heist from their parents own store, is Andy’s idea and he convinces the timid Hank it’s the only way out of their problems.
Despite its plain face, the modest Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead still manages to be tense, brutal and shocking. The pervasive depressing tone combines with the slow pace to create a fairly sombre night at the cinema, but it’s a quality night at the cinema nonetheless.
Veteran director Sydney Lumet, now an old man, guides a handful of great actors. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke and Albert Finney all turn in strong performances. They’re scumbags, all of them. Watching them interact brings to mind the tragedy of Macbeth, or Hamlet. It’s not as grand, but it’s a family tragedy populated with awful, intriguing people.
And despite his age, Lumet isn’t going all coy on us. He’s not afraid to open with a full-on sex scene with a sweaty, fat Hoffman. He assaults us with violent, erratic, desperate people, and surprises us with the utterly tragic dysfunctionality of the family.
This movie has been placed firmly in my 5 worst movies category, right alongside Gangs of New York. It was so bad I had to comment. The acting from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Albert Finney and Ethan Hawke was amazing. Their characters are absolutely disgusting in very different (and quite cliche) ways. They are everything that is horrible about humanity, and they acted disgusting so well.
As a discussion on families being destroyed by person absolute desire for self interest, this movie is a great success. But frankly, why would you want to watch that? Watch the news.
The bits in the movie that drew me in because the acting from Hoffman were so good, were absolutely destroyed by Melissa Tomei's terrible acting and horribly thought out character.
Ultimately I found this movie boring, disgusting and the characters really hard to relate to. I walked out feeling really depressed. If you are going to watch it, make sure you have the Care Bears movie all ready to go afterwards.
can't give away anything about the story but this one you won't forget. Sydney Lumet has always been great in this genre but this must come out at the top. Finney, Hoffman and Hawke are an amazinging family combo with a very dirty story to tell. I'd easily see again
not much to say.
incredibly constructed acting (Hoffman stands out)
really badly thought and developed script - no relation between events, or events that have no meaning in the overall story.
1990s tv series shooting and music (please listen to it!)
the girl (whose name I don't know)...she is just a piss taking that made me think at some point that the whole movie was a giant parody of itself..which for a second made me believe it was genius..until i realized that there was no purposefullness in her cheasy expressions
sorry..i really dont understand how can you like it. maybe because i'm italian.....
Judged against Lumet's masterpieces this is middling and he engages in some tricksy editing and a overly complicated and finally irritating flashback/forward structure. But the great strength of Before The Devil... is in its finely calibrated pair of central performances. Full review.
Empire Magazine [UK]
Bleak, brutal and quite possibly brilliant, this is a triumphant return to form for Lumet and further proof that Hoffman is on an incredible winning streak. Full review.
Pungently atmospheric, brilliantly textured and featuring superb performances from every performer in parts big and small. Full review.
NZ Herlad [Peter Calder]
Cleverly conceived thriller overplays its tricksy narrative but the acting is great. Full review.
Rolling Stone [USA]
A dynamite film that ranks with the year's best. Full review.
The Christchurch Press [Margaret Agnew]
Lumet's slick, non-linear yet efficient storytelling draws you into the family drama masquerading as a crime thriller before you even realise you care what happens to these awful people. The stellar cast lifts this intense drama to fever pitch even as you take in the oddly incongruent tragicomic edge. Full review.
The wrenching tale has something for anyone who likes their melodrama spiked with palpable tension and genuine suspense. Full review.