Saturday, November 17, 2007

Before The Devil Knows You're Dead

At 83 Sidney Lumet proves he's still got his directing chops. This is a taut little crime drama that puts ordinary people into extraordinary situations when a simple robbery goes very wrong. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke play brothers, Andy and Hank, who for different reasons both are mired in money problems. Andy hatches a plan to rob their parents jewelry store and everything spirals out of control from that point on.

The film is shot in and out of sequence with a time line at the bottom of the screen keeping things in proper perspective. This allows us, via different camera angles, to view the same events from different points of view. Hoffman and Hawke are very good in their roles but not very convincing as brothers. The film co-stars Albert Finney as their father and Marisa Tomei as Hoffman's wife. Finney, in particular, is excellent.

The film is reminiscent of an earlier film (from a terrific book), "A Simple Plan", which has a similar storyline and theme. It's a stronger story of ordinary brothers who's lives unravel when a simple plan goes bad. The saving grace of this film is Finney (so strong in his quiet devastation), Hoffman (oozing desperation) and Lumet's tight direction.

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