Veteran, master filmmaker Sidney Lumet 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 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.
Best Ensemble Cast; Boston Society of Film Critics Awards 2007, Gotham Awards 2007
2008Rating: R16, Violence, Offensive Language, Drug Use & Sex Scenes117 minsUSA, UK
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.
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.
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.