I just got back from a screening of Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, the latest film by 83 year old Sydney Lumet, and his first film of any quality since 1990's Q&A, a movie which made a briefly shining star out of Armand Assante. It's Greek tragedy meets family drama in this story of two brothers who, hard pressed for money, decided to rob the family store. The brothers are played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Andy) and Ethan Hawke (Hank), I can't believe I'm about to say good things about Hawke, but the qualities that make him such an unconvincing actor in most films make him perfectly suited for the role of Hank, a moral weakling, a deadbeat dad, whose ex savages him on a regular basis. Hoffman is on his A game and his Andy is a pudgy lump of rage and excess--he needs the money to wiggle out of an embezzlement charge and to support his drug habit. and his unending anger at his father Charlie (Albert Finney) may have something to with the fact that the caper goes wrong, and then wrong and wronger yet. Not everything works, but the acting and the script (great) carry us through the rough patches. Marisa Tomei gives a terrific performance as Andy's trophy wife, alternately dominating and fearful, and there isn't a bad performance in the entire ensemble. The end is a little much, but hey, best American movie I've seen this year...on a par with No Country for Old Men, but better acting. They both have more or less the same message, summed up in the title of this post, but Before the Devil Knows You're Dead requires no serial killer to make its point, just ordinary men and women.
Going to check out Southland Tales this weekend. It's supposed to have been cut by 25 minutes, but the theatre that;s showing it still lists the film at 2 hours and forty-one minutes. Curious.