Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Man, I really liked this. First off, this and Hoax are two excellent recent Carter Burwell scores. Great great soundtrack!

Second off, the script is old school Jim Thompson kind of stuff, as you might figure from the title. But there’s also something downright Greek about it. Saying too much about the specifics of the plot would spoil the sense of discovery, which is what the movie is all about. It opens with a man in woman in bed, fucking each other, and it’s important that you don’t know who they are in relation to each other or anyone else, because finding out is what moves the plot.

It won’t work for a lot of people, and the resolution veers dangerously close to being laughable. But Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke were good enough that the movie earned the lengths it went. In fact, one of my favorite movie moments this year was watching Hoffman tear up a room. It’s an ingenious scene for how much it says about his character.

The movie is also a pleasant reminder how good Marisa Tomei is. She has a few scenes here where she works wonders with just a look. Between this and In the Bedroom, she can totally have that Oscar for My Cousin Vinnie.


That was certainly a problem for me. I found the ending a bit eye-rolling as I really thought it was unnecessary for dad to do that. Also, Lumet has a reputation as being a sort of no-nonsense director. A kind of workman-like throwback to the days of the studio system; y’know the King Vidor type who got his start as stage hand before working his way up to the director’s chair and without any of that fancy film school schoolin’. So the whole “let’s scramble the narrative arc” just didn’t seem to work for me. I couldn’t think of a compelling reason what this film couldn’t be told in a straightforward chronological narrative.

Oh, and the damn trailer gave too much away in my opinion. And I liked Ethan Hawke for the first time since he played that Heidegger-reading doucehbag in Reality Bites. I really felt sorry for the poor schmuck he played in this movie.

I have to wonder how much this:

…has to do with this:

I think the shuffled narrative works if you don’t know who’s what to whom. Each bit layers on a new relationship or a new detail. And holy cats, are you right about the trailer! I just watched it and I’d say it would pretty much destroy the experience the movie is trying to create. Sheesh. Trailers, man.


Saw this last night and also really enjoyed it…as much as you can enjoy such a harrowing spiral of clusterfuck that keeps piling up on these genuinely decent people(Hoffman notwithstanding). There were points when I wondered if and when Lumet would have tossed in some acid-spitting aliens JUST to add more to the pile of problems surrounding the characters.

Everyone was great in the movie, I came in expecting Hoffman to be good, but was equally surprised by Hawk and Tomei. BTW, Tomei looked fantastic too. ;)

I would like to snarkily refer to my thread where I brought it up and we had a long conversation about the movie’s upcoming release and then proceed to bitch about Administrator Chick’s poor search skills. The problem is, no one loved me enough to reply to my posting. I blame Bush.

If it ever comes to screens in Birmingham, I will sneak out and see it in a double-feature with Juno, which is similarly absent from this fair city.

This was released yesterday; naturally, I went to see it. I was quite stunned by just how brilliant, if grotesque, Hoffman was. His ‘tearing up’ of the room was so impotent, it fitted perfectly to where he was.

And my word, Ethan Hawke pulled off what looked like a really quite difficult role. The ending was perhaps a little too much, but I can admit that my heart did race throughout much of the film. I did teeter occasionally on the verge of deciding that the soundtrack was too melodramatic, but in the end I let it lie, loved. Just ‘Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ and ‘There Will Be Blood’ left to complete this gorgeous week of film releases here.

Addendum: Obviously, the release schedule is a little different here. Also, the father’s performance was too understated for me.

I rented this the other day and turned it off about halfway through. Had I not read the back of the DVD I probably would have liked it more. However, I knew the basic plot going in, and it kind of ruined the revelations as they came.

I don’t know. On a better day I’d probably give it another shot, but on the day I watched it, the pacing was too agonizingly slow, and that incredibly stupid, herky-jerky, annoying sound effect having, crazy-spaztic camera thing they did every goddamn time they hopped around chronologically (which happened all the damn time) …well, it drove me friggin’ nuts. And by nuts, I mean to imply that I was shouting at the television for them to knock it the fuck off.

You should at least watch it until Marisa Tomei’s intimate moment with Ethan Hawke’s character. You’ll know if you made it that far. She is a beautiful woman.

This is now on Netflix’s Watch It Now.

I found the film unsatisfying, but thought Ethan Hawke was terrific. I’ve never seen him give an entire performance that was so passive and skittish.

Oh, and Hoffman gives new meaning to ‘pillow biter’. An awesome piece of acting business.

The dad’s performance was great, I’ve seen an older man lose the love of his life and it was exactly like that. Which brings me to my second point, I do not go to the movies so that I can relieve failed attempts to comfort grieving octagenarians. Apart from the acting, the story was shit and the jump cuts made me want to poop my own pants just so that I would be sent out of the room.

If I could go back in time and do one thing, it would be finding myself six weeks ago and telling me not to watch this movie with my parents.

I did like it, though. The score was amazing. Ethan Hawke was great. The scrambled storyline was part of the movie’s strength, as it revealed one more terrible secret or betrayal every time, making you cringe retroactively, so to speak.

when i saw this in theaters, groups of people kept walking out.

we lost a handful of people during the opening shots.

the people who had stayed until the end seemed confused.

however, i quite enjoyed it and suggested it to several people.

So, I gave it another shot last night and watched the whole thing. I stand by my original decision to not like this movie. I do believe that the acting was top notch, and I thought the movie was actually pretty great from “You mind if I call you Chico?” to “DID YOU TOUCH ANYTHING!?!”, but the rest of it just didn’t work for me.

My wife and I made it about 40 minutes through before turning it off. What a waste of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s talent. What a stupid film.

I just saw this this weekend and I agree, the ending was a bit over the top. I thought the performances of all the actors were great but I think the movie could have been better. It was too slow, I don’t mind slow but I just feel the story could have been told in a significantly shorter film and I think it would have been better for it. Many of the reveals weren’t that dramatic. Finding out about Hoffman’s and Tomei’s character’s relationship wasn’t that big a moment for me for example. I also found no redeeming qualities in any of the characters save Hawke’s but only at the very end and even then it’s only a partial redemption.

I also agree that the cuts to different chronological/character segments were annoying and breaking the narrative up in that way wasn’t necessary to the plot nor the experience. I suppose it helped the audience to keep track of each of the characters story lines since they were rather convoluted and containing everyones in chronological order could have been very confusing. Though I think that’s an indication that the movie is overly complicated and in need of cuts.

Ultimately I think the performances are what carried this movie and they’re all absolutely fantastic. Had there only been one or maybe two stand out performances I think this movie would have been a failure. I don’t think I’m familiar with any of the Lumet’s other works but it’s clear he’s capable of drawing out great performances from his actors, now he needs to get an editor and a scriptwriter.

12 Angry Men. The Fugitive Kind. All The King’s Men (original). Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Serpico. Dog Day Afternoon. Network. The Verdict. Q&A. Running On Empty.

That’s without looking at the imdb, so I’m sure I’m missing some. But Trunk, get thee to Netflix pronto.

Wow. Lot’s of people sure are pooing on this movie. Except for the unrealistic ending (would he really get away with that?), I found the character’s downward spiral compelling.

This left me cold for some reason. Forgive the crass commercial metaphor (and my impatient frame of mind), but I think a movie has to sell its audience on something–character, concept, feel, whatever–in roughly the first 15 minutes. When that doesn’t happen, I’m gone. :(


Well I wasn’t going to bump this, but since someone else did, I just watched this last night. Count me with those who admired the performances, but the movie overall didn’t work for.

I went into it knowing nothing except “I think there was a Qt3 thread about this…” so I didn’t have the trailer ruining anything for me. Even with my ignorance allowing the reveals to play out as intended, I don’t think it was worth it to cut the movie like that. For every big dramatic reveal it allowed, there were scenes made more confusing, and I think it made the whole movie longer than it needed to be by about 30 minutes. Things really start to drag when you’re kicked back for what feels like the third or fourth time to a scene you already know almost everything about. A little extra tidbit here or there isn’t worth it.

But yeah, Hank tearing his place apart was fantastic.