Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)

This one is about family and betrayal and I was transfixed. I had been put off by the title. After watching it, I watched the trailer--it didn't do the movie justice, but this one is difficult to pump in trailer format.

Two brothers plot. Powerhouse Phil Seymour Hoffman stars as Andy and Ethan Hawke as younger brother Hank. The brothers are hurting for cash. Andy's lightbulb burns at the idea that their problems would be remedied by robbing an easy target: a mom and pop jewelry shop in the 'burbs. The twist...it's their parents' shop. This story has more switchbacks than Witch Mountain!

(Spoiler Alert: Read at Your Own Risk!)

Andy is detached. Hank is insecure and unstable. He's been chided all his life and now, he now believes it and consequently excels at little. His ex and mother of his daughter (played viciously well by Amy Ryan) communicates with frequent yelling, usually about child support owed and usually in front of their daughter, who also treats Dad similarly. Marisa Tomei is Gina, Andy's wife. Their relationship is frayed and she's got a secret.

When the robbery is botched, the brothers hold it together but their loose ends prove problematic. Albert Finney plays their father. He's introduced later in the film...last but not least.

Hawke and Hoffman create so much tension, they almost combust opposite each other. Some scenes are shot from each character's perspective, such as: Hank: Three days before the robbery and motivations begin to make sense. One of my favorite moments is when Andy has just committed a shocking crime in front of Hank. Hank is aghast. Andy barks at Hank: "Are we good?" The expression that takes over Hank's face captures the the irony.

I was stunned to learn that my friend Corinn thought the movie was awful. She said the characters lacked reedeeming qualities and that she was unable to relate to any of them. This may have been exactly why I loved this movie. The characters are flawed and as the plot unfolds and you learn more about them, you understand what's making them tick. They have serious financial problems, but the money seemed symbolic for the real issue--perhaps a lack of love and acceptance.

Don't miss the DVD extra where the actors and director discuss the making of. You get lots of insightful tidbits about the plot.

Themes: Betrayal, sibling rivalry, financial problems, fraud crime

Director: Sidney Lumet (genius behind Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico)

Country: US

Genre: Suspense-Thriller/Melodrama

Time: 117 minutes

Scale: on 1-5, a 6!...I love Lumet!

1 comment:

Michelle said...

again, we rented this a few nights ago based on your blog....

great cast!