Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

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before the devil knows
I hate to break this to you, but…Albert Finney likes me more than you.

Michael Douglas, as Gordon Gekko, says in Wall Street “Greed is good.”

Perhaps he should watch this movie. In fact, let’s get Quentin Tarantino to watch this, too. Let him see how a heist picture can be just as good as anything he’s done; and by a filmmaker that’s in his 80s! I can’t believe Sydney Lumet is that old still pumping out great films like this.

Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, and Network were all in the 1970s.

Network snagged 5 Oscar nominations for the actors, and I’d love it if this got that many. Give Albert Finney the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and Ethan Hawke, an actor I’m not usually a fan of, deserves a nomination for Best Actor. Philip Seymour Hoffman was good, but I won’t be crushed if he doesn’t get a nomination. Yet I would love Michael Shannon, in his very small role, to get a Supporting Actor nomination as well.

As for the ladies, I’d love Amy Ryan and Marisa Tomei to get some love as well. They’re wonderful, although I’m still not sure I understand the point of such a gratuitous opening sex scene, but hey – Tomei looks great, so I’ll stop complaining.

I can’t tell you a lot about the plot without giving things away, so I’ll purposely be vague. Hoffman and Hawke are brothers (they look alike, don’t they?). Hoffman convinces Hawke to rob a small, mom-and-pop jewelry store to help solve their money problems (we see Hawke having fights about paying child support, but Hoffman has a great job).

And like Pulp Fiction, we get some time jumps in the various time sequences, but it’s very easy to follow.

First time screenwriter Kelly Masterson does a masterful job with the story, as we’re slowly given information that keeps getting us more and more intrigued with what is unfolding on the screen.

Albert Finney plays their father, and he reminds you of so many fathers. He loves his sons, but has a hard time showing it. He isn’t afraid to call one of them a baby, or show favoritism. He’s old school. Yet the affection he shows for his wife (Rosemary Harris) is wonderful. They do crossword puzzles together, and lament eye tests at the DMV.

I’m guessing the Coen brothers, who gave us the great crime drama Fargo, would enjoy this picture. The musical score is also done by Carter Burwell, who has done all their films.

Here’s something I really love in a movie that is done perfectly, as this movie is. Little scenes that I’ve seen in hundreds of other films and hated, are done right here. One of those scenes involves a man questioning police about a crime. He wants answers that they just can’t give him. He gets angry, and they seem angry by his harassing them. Yet the cop never says anything disrespectful. In other movies the cop would say “Why don’t you go home, get some sleep old man, and stop bugging us. We’ll call ya when we hear something.”

Another scene I loved involved Michael Shannon, playing a slimeball. Yet at the point in the movie where we meet his character, he doesn’t seem quite as bad as the other slimeballs. The way he commands the screen, and that particular situation, is just a thrill to watch.

I’m going to see this movie again when it’s released, and I suggest you do the same. It’ll be on my list of best movies of the year.

I’m giving it an A.



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