Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

devil_deadAlthough also directed by Sidney Lumet about a robbery gone terribly awry, Dog Day Afternoon (1975) this isn't. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, from Think Films, is a brilliant, harrowing, and emotionally charged crime drama about two desperate brothers (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke as Andy and Hank respectively) who decide to rob their parents' jewelry store, with tragic consequences. Everything that can possibly go wrong does, and just when the viewer thinks that circumstances can't get any more dismal or left-of-center, they do.

Andy is a payroll executive and sociopathic drug addict, married to the ever-so-sexy Gina (Marisa Tomei), who is having an affair with his dim-witted younger brother Hank. Andy's marriage is suffering, Hank is divorced and behind in child support, and both brothers sorely need money in order to deal with their respective predicaments. With the help of Bobby Lasorda (Brian F. O'Byrne), a minor-league criminal, the two carry out their sordid plan.

Mr. Lumet and screenwriter Kelly Masterson employ an effective and somewhat jarring cinematic and literary technique of moving the story forward and then jumping backwards, moving it forward again and jumping back further, revealing in unflinching detail the specific particulars and unfolding process of one of the most bizarre and spectacular misadventures (and its devastating consequences) ever to be portrayed in the history of modern cinema.

Albert Finney plays the boys' father, Charles, and Rosemary Harris is his beloved wife, Nanette. Charles decides to take matters into his own hands (literally) after the fiasco, and when I saw it in the theater, this produced an audible gasp from the audience before the lights came up.

The title of the film is from an old, rather lengthy Irish blessing:

May your glass be ever full

May the roof over your head be always strong

And may you be in heaven

Half an hour before the devil knows you're dead. 

It is very likely that this film was spurned by the Academy because of its unusually dark and twisted nature, but this is certainly no reason to avoid it now that it is available on DVD. The acting is stellar, the directing magnificent and gripping, and the devil himself couldn't come up with a better machination. - Alison McParlin Davis-Murphy alison_davis.jpg

Ms. Davis-Murphy was born in NYC, grew up in Greenwich Village, graduated from Barnard College, Musician's Institute in LA, and in 2001 received her Master's degree in Psychology from Phillips Graduate Institute in LA. An avid photographer, guitarist, and pianist, she currently lives in California with her husband and six cats, and is working on her semi-autobiography titled The Naked Ballerina: Diary of a Professional Tease.


Really a great performance by all, but Hoffman stands out - once again. Got a chance to screen this film in December, too bad that it didn't get more notice. A great message that is delivered with a chill up your spine.

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