Wednesday, September 10, 2008

BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


Yes, this is a film from last year, but it deserves a slight review.

How old is Sidney Lumet? Here is a hint: OLD. Now when I reach my second childhood, I hope that my product is a little more gentle than this film. I would like to die known as a gentle soul. Lumet has made it clear with this film that he is not a gentle soul, but he is one of the profane, the vulgar and the perverse. I went through this film a second time recently just to make sure it was what I thought it was, and yes, it is. This is one of the most mean-spirited films I have ever watched.

In brief, Andy and Hank are brothers. Andy is Philip Seymour Hoffman and Hank is Ethan Hawke. They both have money problems. Andy's is from embezzlement and an apparently out of control heroin addiction. Hank's is a divorce and an expensive school for his daughter.

Andy hatches a plan to rob a jewelry store. The problem with this plan (which is what I needed the second viewing for) is that it is their' parent's jewelry store. The second viewing showed me just how ON IT Philip Seymour Hoffman is as an actor. The deal is that he isn't letting Hank in on the owners of the shop until he has Hank on board. With Hank on board, it is mesmerising to watch Hoffman dodge and duck his way out of getting his hands dirty with this at all. The entire onus is on Hank. Hank follows suit and proceeds to foul the job up beyond all levels of foulness.

If this isn't dirty enough, there is Gina Hanson (Marisa Tomei) who is Andy's wife. However, she is having an affair with Hank. She spends a lot of time in the bedroom in this film. She spends a lot of time in various stages of undress. It is unfortunate. Marisa has acting chops, but Lumet was worried more about her breasts I think. Her character is a catalyst, but ultimately, she is naked window dressing.

Rounding these heavy players out are Albert Finney as the father of the Hansons, Rosemary Harris (Spiderman's Aunt May) as the mother and Amy Ryan (from the Wire) as Hank's ex.

It is no secret that everything goes totally wrong in this film. Sideways. The robbery is botched, and fingers are pointed and the stress is ratcheted over the top.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is devastating as a man under ridiculous pressure. The pressure that is on him is compounded, and split and then compounded again. He is ultimately left with a few choices to get out of his situation. He is so destructive in his methods that suicide seems to be the option that will be plucked. The direction that Philip Seymour Hoffman takes is one that is much more street. He goes headlong into the problem and solves it with brute force and bullets.

This is a film about failure. Failure of family. Failure of business. Failure of marriage. Failure of the police. Failure of escapism. Failure of remorse. Failure of crime. Everything good and bad fails in this movie heinously. The success is the movie itself. However, as I cited already, this is one bitter, mean-spirited film. I can't even determine what mood you should be in when watching this. if you are bummed out, this will make you even more bummed out. If you are happy, then this film will be your buzzkill.

But it is acted and scripted like a serious work of art. When Philip Seymour Hoffman's Andy realizes that his wife has been cheating on him with his brother, he goes through the motions. He goes through the motions of a broken man. He tosses the furniture and he pours a bowl of pebbles onto a glass coffee table. So slowly and half-heartedly is his destruction of his domicile that I was reminded of Steve Buscemi's missed strike in THE BIG LEBOWSKI right before he has a heart attack in front of the nihilists. Andy's motions prior to the house-toss were precise and done with purpose. Andy has lost all hope at this point. He is ready to survive, but half of him is dead. Hence the title. Andy becomes a dead man walking. He is in hell, and he is going to take everyone with him.

Do I suggest that you watch this movie? Perhaps for art's sake. Other than that, I would warn you to stay away. This is a rough, rough ride. And Sidney Lumet? That man is well on his way to hell too for foisting such an ugly view of life upon us.


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