Thursday, 7 February 2008

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead Review

The saying goes 'May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil know you're dead'. So it would be nice if at least the first third of this film would be fairly easy going on the characters before the mess sets in. Sadly all we get is two minutes of a Philip Seymour Hoffman/Marisa Tomei two backed beast before we are plunged head first into some Eastenders worthy tragedy.

The less you know about the plot the better but I like my second paragraph to be filled with story details so nah, nah and indeed nah. It is about two brothers Andy (PSH) and Hank (a nerdier than usual Ethan Hawke) who set out to rob their mom and pop's jewellery store. A silly idea yes, made even sillier by the fact they don't really have a plan and kinda wing it. This 'winging it' leads to some fan and some shit colliding. From here on in its an everything that can go wrong, will go wrong affair told with a jigsaw puzzle type structure.

This structure is very effective in keeping you intrigued but once all the pieces are in place you can't help but wish you were looking at something a little less messy. One problem with the film is that it looks and feels very low budget. Lots of real lighting and lenghty takes help give the film a naturalistic quality but in Lumets choice of recognisable faces in every role this naturalism is broken. Not that the actors do a bad job, far from it. All are on top form and give a likeability to the characters that is severely lacking in the script.

It has the feel of a David Mamet film, with characters fucking each other over while their lives fall apart. And judging by the almost unanimously positive reviews from critics this is something that some people want to see. For me, it was just a little too cold to be truly tragic, the characters too unlikeable to garner any real sympathy.

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