Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

This is one of those off-the-beaten-path movies that wasn’t a big theater movie. The storyline revolves around 2 brothers, both in financial straights for different reasons (drugs, divorce, child support, etc.), both also not the most straight up guys in the world either. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the big brother (who happens to be the more corrupt and more influential of the two) with his little brother played by Ethan Hawke. Hawke’s character is the nice-but-dumb screw up kind of guy.

Out of desperation to salvage their financial situation, Hoffman’s character (who has a bit of a heroine problem) comes up with a scheme to rob their parent’s jewelry store which he deems as a victimless crime since the parents can just collect the insurance anyway. Ethan Hawke’s character reluctantly accepts the plan and is put in charge as the one to actually carry it out (isn’t it just like a big brother to talk his little brother into doing all the work?).

Things don’t go well and conflict ensues…

Sort of a dark and intense movie, the storyline is well written and keeps you drawn in even though we’ve seen this kind of plot before. The style in which the brothers are written made me feel sorry for both of them in different ways although one is definitely the jerk while the other is kind of the hapless loser. There are some dark explorations here with Hoffman’s drug use and Hawke’s tensions with his ex-wife and little girl.

Albert Finney and Marisa Tomei are featured as support characters, both giving great performances. Hoffman and Hawke also deliver the goods in fine fashion with strong, passionate deliveries and interpretations of their characters.

The film is well-directed and well-produced to boot, so this one is a no-brainer to check out if you enjoy this kind of movie.

reviewed by Sean McKnight