BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD ——–“So, it’s safe. Nobody gets hurt. Everybody wins. It’s perfect.” When that advice is confidentially offered, backed with a reassuring smile, your optimal response ought to be some version of “I left something in the car. I’ll be right back.” When it’s dropped early on in a Sidney Lumet movie, rest easy. He’ll pull it off. You’ll get the goods.
Job, marriage and health all blinking red, ‘Andy Hanson’ (Philip Seymour Hoffman) wants to score enough cash to take his dissatisfied trophy wife ‘Gina’ (Marisa Tomei), skip the country and start over fresh in Brazil. He beguiles his younger brother ‘Hank’ (Ethan Hawke), also desperate for money, into a fail-safe jewel store heist. The Mom & Pop target is their own parents business. In, out, no-one the wiser. Insurance will cover losses.
Director Lumet’s last movie, with a taut screenplay by Kelly Masterson (Snowpiercer) was very well received by critics, appearing on two dozen 10-best lists for 2007. Though they justifiably hailed it a return to form for the pilot of a slew of classic urban dramas, the public failed to show up: the lean & clean $18,000,000 production grossed just $7,084,000 domestically, 152nd place for the year. It did earn $17,953,000 in other markets, but it deserved a much better showing: it’s the best in the latter part of Lumet’s career, the best since The Verdict back in ’82. A fine swan song, with searing performances from the three leads, plus Albert Finney as the father, with trenchant supporting jabs from Michael Shannon and Amy Ryan.
Moving score from Carter Burwell hauntingly underlines the “I’m f’—d” dilemmas of the protagonists and the resulting tragic progression of events. With Bryan F. O’Byrne, Rosemary Harris, Aleksa Palladino, Leonardo Cimino and Blaine Horton. 117 minutes.