Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead *** (out of ****)

Director: Sidney Lumet
Writer: Kelly Masterson
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, Albert Finney
Rating: R (sex, violence, language, drug use)
Running Time: 116 min
Release Date: 11/2/07

Brothers Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Hank (Ethan Hawk) Hanson both need money fast. Andy the older brother who is a manager with a six-figure salary wouldn’t seem to be in financial trouble, while his brother Hank who is divorced and behind on his child support payments would. Yet it is Andy who proposes a plan to net them both a quick sixty grand. It seems their father Charles (Albert Finney) owns a small jewelry store in a strip mall located in the suburbs. On a certain day an elderly woman will be the only person working in the store. Andy suggests that Hank get a realistic-looking toy gun and rob the store. He knows a fence that will pay them twenty cents on the dollar for the loot. They can split the take 50-50.

Now this sounds quite dastardly, doesn’t it? But Andy reasons that there is little chance of anything going wrong and they know store is insured for the full amount. So no one will get hurt. Oh, well except the insurance company but who cares about them? Right! Sounds fool proof except that something, well really everything, goes wrong. Hank, fearing that he will be recognized, decides to get a thug he knows to do the job for him while he will drive the get away car. But, the thug brings a real gun, their mother is substituting for the elderly lady who is off that morning on personal business, and things go terribly wrong.

Lumet has structured this movie in a non-linear timeline much like Pulp Fiction and so layers of the onion are slowly pealed back revealing the dark side of the Hansen family. Andy was facing an IRS audit which was going to uncover his embezzlement of company funds. His wife Gina (Marisa Tomei) has been pampered with a lifestyle too great for even his salary and his has a heroin addiction as well to finance. No wonder he was in a rush to get some money to put back in the company accounts before the audit.

As you can see family Hansen is imploding as the botched robbery leaves their mother dead and the relatives of the thug wanting hush money. Gina turns out to need more than one Hansen bother to satisfy her lusts. Their father who is devastated by the loss of his wife and frustrated with police indifference starts his own investigation. The Devil is certainly having his way with this family.


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