“Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” (2007)

Before the Devil Knows You're DeadI hesitated about seeing Sidney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Phillip Seymour Hoffman got an Oscar nod for his part in the film, but I feared it would be too grim to appreciate. Grim it was, in the ancient tradition of messed-up family tragedies. But it was also well directed and put together, and so exceedingly well acted, that any qualms I had were overridden. I can’t say the qualms were put to rest, though, because it is a decidedly provocative and agitating movie.

Hoffman and Ethan Hawke play brothers who are in financial and family trouble. They attempt a crime they think will be victimless; by the end every single character is affected. And in true tragic form, many of them are dead. Lumet, director of classics like Dog Day Afternoon, makes a patchwork tale feel seamless. To an actor, the performances were outstanding, especially Hawke and Marisa Tomei. It’s a solid, well-done, classic tragedy.

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