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"Before the Devil Knows You're Dead"

Directed by Sidney Lumet.
Written by Kelly Masterson.
Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei and Albert Finney.
Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  11/7/07


Sidney Lumet is back!!  After doing some not-so-great flicks over the last 20 years, Lumet--now a whopping 84 years young--does good, understated work with the new thriller "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead", great because it features a steady diet of strong acting, a chronologically-hopping plot and incessant shots of Marisa Tomei's breasts.

Set in New York, the film starts off by showing an older woman who runs a jewelry store in a Westchester strip mall getting robbed by a guy in a black hood.  A few gunshots later and both principals are bleeding to death...and, then we learn how we got there.  Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Hank (Ethan Hawke) are brothers who are not doing so well with the cash-money.  Hank's behind on child care payments and Andy's got a shady tendency to buy drugs from a dealer uptown.  Andy's got an idea--rob the family-owned jewelry store, since his parents run it...since insurance would cover the losses, it's a win-win situation for the boys and for the recovery of cash needed by the business.  So, without telling the plan to his wife (Tomei), Andy decides that Hank should be the one who actually robs the bank, so Hank gets a friend to help him rob the store blind and that's where things really get interesting.

Hawke and Hoffman are great at playing these sad, desperate characters; just the urgency they bring to their respective parts make the film thrilling to watch. Tomei never wows you but she doesn't get in the way of the proceedings, either, as the wife who questions just what the hell her husband is doing with his life...and, as mentioned, she is half-naked quite a bit in this film.  Later, we get to meet the boys' parents, played by Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris; Finney, in particular, is strong as a man who loses a lot in a short amount of time and has to make sense of it all way too quickly.  The way the plot skips around makes all of this come together well in the beginning and well in the end, although the middle-to-late portion of this gets a little blah.

I think that all of this works because Lumet seems to harken back to movies that he directed many moons ago, like "12 Angry Men"; I really liked how much drama Lumet creates in the spaces allowed in "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead", mainly by just having Seymour work against another of the film's stars to chew the fat on a set.  The film looks nice but certainly not extravagant, and this vanilla palette allows the stars to shine.  Check this one out soon; playing at an indie theater near you.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09