Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead Review
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Sometimes it’s surprising to see how low a desperate man will stoop. But when it comes to brothers Hank (Ethan Hawke) and Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman), it’s not really that much of a surprise.

Older brother, Andy, may look like a smooth businessman who’s got it all—a good job, an expensive apartment, a beautiful wife (Marisa Tomei). But he’s really just a heartless slimeball with a very expensive drug habit. And little brother, Hank, is just an aimless misfit. His ex-wife hates him, and he can’t keep up with his child support payments—nor can he afford all the extras that his daughter expects.

So when Andy comes up with a foolproof plan to make some extra cash, Hank doesn’t need a lot of convincing. Sure, he becomes a little uneasy about the whole thing as soon as he finds out that Andy’s plan involves robbing their parents’ jewelry store—but he really needs the money. And Andy assures him that nobody will get hurt. But then everything goes horribly wrong.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead opens with a rather graphic sex scene involving Philip Seymour Hoffman, and it just goes downhill from there. The story is told through the point-of-view of various characters, and it frequently jumps back and forth in time, using strange transitions that involve techno background music. The transitions are distracting—and they make the movie feel less artistic and more like a low-budget movie from the ‘70s (a feeling that’s only intensified by the film’s occasional washed-out, grainy appearance). The frequent backtracking only drags the story out, adding to the runtime for no apparent reason. In many cases, it means that scenes are replayed—only from a slightly different camera angle—making it feel slow and redundant.

All that (or at least some of it) could be forgiven, though, if there were something interesting about the characters. But there’s nothing intriguing—or even likeable—about either of the brothers. In the beginning, Andy is a selfish, backstabbing jerk with no conscience—and he’s the same in the end. In the beginning, Hank is a hapless, spineless follower—and he’s the same in the end. Although Hank is supposed to come off as a nice guy who’s just trying to make a better life for his daughter, he’s really no better than his slimy older brother. Both characters are so concerned about themselves that they don’t seem to care about how their actions affect others—their family, their friends, the people they love. Neither character is especially smart, either—and it’s unbelievable that no one sees what they’re up to, since they’re not especially clever about covering their tracks.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is a long, sluggish crime thriller that’s not the slightest bit thrilling—featuring a couple of characters who aren’t the slightest bit likeable. Despite the fact that it’s the product of legendary director Sidney Lumet, it’s just not worth two hours of your time.

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