Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead ★★★★★

Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) needs money to fuel his selfish dream of moving to Rio de Janiero and buy more drugs to satisfy his addiction. His naïve but well-meaning younger brother, Hank (Ethan Hawke), needs money too, his ‘needs’ being paying the mother of his daughter for looking after her and paying for tickets to the Lion King. Their parents own a jewellery store and Andy comes to Hank with a sinister proposition involving robbery. You think you can see where this is going? Then you’re wrong. Because Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is the twistiest crime thriller since Reservoir Dogs.

Skilfully directed by an (at the time) 82 year old Sidney Lumet, this really rather incredible film seamlessly combines the family drama of The Godfather, the dark, comic stupidity of Fargo and (as I said before) the nastiness of Reservoir Dogs. The characters are as multi-layered as you’re going to find in modern cinema, and as dislikeable as you’re going to find in cinema full-stop. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Andy climbs the list of the most heartless ‘nice guys’ ever with a sweaty, loathsome brat, while Brian F O'Byrne conjures a brutal but thick-as-a-brick beast with an inch-long fuse. Oscar-winner Marisa Tomei gets the sympathy vote as Andy’s long-suffering wife (despite being nude for about half the time she’s on-screen. Which can’t really hurt, I suppose…)

But fans of crime be warned, this isn’t an easy watch. It flicks backwards and forwards through time through different people’s perspectives, and leaves you ultimately saddened and a little lost with yourself. You’re left thinking ‘How could you do that to your own family?’ I mean, seriously…bad people.

It’s a real shame that this movie was neglected when it came to awards season, with not a single Oscar nomination in sight. If it wasn’t for the excellent No Country For Old Men, the better There Will Be Blood and the hilarious Juno, then Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead would have…hang on, I’m supposed to be promoting this film. Still, it’s absolutely amazing, go buy it and honour the late Sidney Lumet! And everyone else involved, of course, because they’re brilliant too…

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