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Family Jewel

11 Nov

Plain and simple, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is one of the best movies of the year. Or maybe it would be were it not 5 or 10 minutes too long, and didn’t have as much time-shifting. But that’s minor quibbling when you have such a fantastic acting ensemble and a crackling plot. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke play down-on-their-luck brothers who decide to rob a jewelry store to get themselves out of dire straits. Of course, nothing goes as planned, and complications arise involving their parents (Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris) and Hoffman’s character’s wife (Marisa Tomei), and soon the boys are in more trouble than before the heist. Director Sidney Lumet keeps the action moving, employing the aforementioned time-shifting device to further shade the characters and reveal their varied motivations, and that works quite well for the first half. But after the first few flashbacks, the device gets tired and it made me roll my eyes. Hoffman and, most surprisingly, Hawke are both excellent, giving performances of intensity and turmoil. Things don’t all go as you expect them to, and when the film reaches its eventual conclusion, not everything is resolved and you’re left wondering what will happen to the characters next. Sometimes that’s frustrating. Here, with all kinds of questionable moral activity going on, it feels appropriate. I’m going to give BtDKYD a strong B+.

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