Monday, 9 July 2012

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

"Andy... that's Mom and Dad's store"

Two brothers (Phillip Seymour Hoffman & Ethan Hawke) in very different situations but both desperately in need of money decide to rob their parents Jewellery store. As you’d expect the heist goes wrong and leaves one family member dead while the others try to come to terms with the consequences.

I don’t want to give anymore away than that as spoilers are like a minefield with this film. It is presented in a non linier way with scenes chopping back and forth through the narrative, often from different perspectives. It’s never difficult to follow though. While the back and forth storytelling was interesting I didn’t feel that the different points of view made a difference. I had never heard of this movie and was recommended it by our building’s concierge. As a result I didn’t know what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised when the excellent cast popped up on screen. Each time a new character came on screen I was thinking “ooh its Hoffman, ooh it’s Hawke. Ooh Albert Finney’s in this. And Rosemary Harris. Ahh, Marisa Tomei (with her contractual topless scenes). Cool, Amy Ryan. Ah, nice one it’s Michael Shannon”. The cast is excellent. The film however isn’t.

I discussed the movie with my girlfriend and while we both liked it, neither of us enjoyed it. The story is very original and interesting and as I mentioned the cast is brilliant and each member is excellent but I just didn’t enjoy the execution. Reading up on the film now I’m seeing that it was on a number of Top 10 lists and although it’s a good film, I definitely wouldn’t go that far in my praise of it.

The problem is that I can’t put my finger on what I didn’t like. It just didn’t grip me even though all the parts were there. The acting was top notch, the direction superb and the story engaging. I think perhaps it was too slow for me, although this is never usually a problem. Looking back too, the non linier plot did annoy me at time. But at other times it worked well.

This film is going to bug me for a while. It is most definitely a good film and I’d recommend it to people but there is just something about it that I didn’t enjoy and I can’t put my finger on what it was.



  1. I love this movie. The cast makes the film worth watching, I agree, but I found the plot and story to be not only engaging, but full of enough unexpected turns to be unpredicable and entertaining. I'm a huge Ethan Hawke fan (he's one of, if not my favorite actor) so I may be slightest biased. I think the whole thing is great though, and is the last film by the legendary Sidney Lumet.

    1. It is definitely a film of note. I wish I'd liked it more because I can totally understnad why someone would love it. I think it lacked suspense, even though the twists were good.

  2. Your building has a concierge? I'll be happy when our maintenance guy uses actual wasp spray instead of roach spray on the wasp nest building up right where my sliding glass door opens.

    I watched this one a few years ago, but I remember liking it a lot. To me, it sounds like you should forget about it for a while and then rewatch it from a fresh perspective. If nothing else, it can at least help you nail doesn't sit well with you.

    I hope you're not complaining about Marisa Tomei's contractually obligated topless scenes.

    1. I would like to go back to it at some point because like I said, I do think it is an excellent film, there was just something I didn't get. I'like a fresh look. As for Marisa Tomei, I refuse to watch a film without a topless clause in her contract.