Sunday, May 25, 2008

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007)

Hank (Ethan Hawke): Well, Bobby said that he needed to rent a car, but that he did, uh, this was Friday night, and he didn’t have a credit card, so I told him that I would rent him a car and – I owed him some money – that’s, that’s it, I swear – I’m so sorry.
Chris (Aleksa Palladino): So what – so, you’re lieing? If Bobby wanted a car, he would have fucking stolen one!

Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman): The thing about real estate accounting is that you can, you can, add down the page or across the page and everything works out. Everyday, everything adds up. The, the total is always the sum of its parts. It's, uh, clean. It's clear. Neat, absolute. But my life, it, uh, it doesn't add up. It, uh... Nothing connects to anything else. It's, uh... I'm not, I'm not the sum of my parts. All my parts don't add up to one... to one me, I guess.
Justin (Blaine Horton): Get a shrink or a wife.
Andy: Uh, I got a wife.
Justin: Get a shrink.

At a glance: Veteran director and legend Sydney Lumet returns at age 83 to direct this torrid, unappealing, but highly rated crime drama, where perhaps the world’s most dysfunctional family gets to smother the screen for 2 hours.

(SPOILER ALERT) Hank (Ethan Hawke) is a divorced dad with money issues. His brother Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) hatches a plan to rob their parent’s jewelry store. Hank has never done this kind of thing before, so he enlists the help of Bobby (). Bobby has done this kind of thing before; he brings along a handgun and an attitude. When he sees Hank’s disguise, he says he will do the heist alone, just asking Hank to drive instead. We learn early that the robbery is a failure; later, we find out just how much of a failure it is on so many levels. Then, through trips back in time, we see why people did what they did. Hank seems like the one with problems, but although Andy looks like he’s got it all under control, it is he that is embezzling, using hard drugs, and trying to save his failed marriage to Gina (Marisa Tomei). The deliberate pacing may not appeal to all viewers, nor will the fact that there is not one character with any redeeming quality (other than perhaps how good Marisa Tomei looks when she is topless). This is my first exposure to Hoffman, although I have had Capote on my to-view list for some time. And I wish I had watched it before this, as I believe Hoffman’s acting may be somewhat of an acquired taste that may come off as overacting at first glance. On that subject, virtually everyone overacts and pulls faces, especially Hawke – this is not subtle direction for the most part. By the way, Hawke has matured less than gracefully and and is looking very Nick Nolte-ish. There are moments and styles that I liked about the film – for example, the way Justin (Blaine Horton), Andy’s waifish heroin injector, is always filmed from a distance, with his face turned at an angle to the camera, to emphasize his status as a non-entity. Generally, however, I found it too distasteful and overwrought. Note that this film has generally received excellent reviews, so I’m going against the norm by rating it so poorly. Rating: 2 of 4

"Marisa's bored and frustrated sexpot trophy wife is pretty much kept around in the movie just for occasional guy sexual satisfaction, in Sid Lumet's human cesspool of murky madness."
- Prairie Miller (NewsBlaze)

"Marked by hammy performances and outlandish revelations, Sidney Lumet's film can barely hold a candle to his greatest work."
- Wesley Lovell (Oscar Guy)

"Bleak, brutal and quite possibly brilliant, this is a triumphant return to form for Lumet and further proof that Hoffman is on an incredible winning streak."
- Helen OHara (Empire Magazine)

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