First of all, apologies for the lack of posts lately. I'm trying to cram a lot of work into this week before I go traveling for the holidays and I've hardly seen any new movies. It's annoying.
I enjoyed Sidney Lumet's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, it's a highly diverting film and well-acted all the way around. It's a good reminder that yes, Marisa Tomei actually deserved her Academy Award for My Cousin Vinny, that Philip Seymour Hoffman and Albert Finney are acting legends, and a good sign that Ethan Hawke might have finally outgrown the callowness of his youth and turned into a decent character actor. Add in some fun narrative twists and it's a good night at the movies.
The thing is, I can't really join in on the 'one of the best movies of the year' train that the movie's riding to some extent right now, because I found it good but not great.
(SPOILERS) It's your standard noir outline - losers who are brothers (Hoffman and Hawke) try to score a heist but in the process muck it up - with a domestic twist, that the jewelry store they target for a hold-up is owned by their own parents and in the process Mom gets a bullet in the belly and Dad, distraught, tries to figure out who's to blame, only to discover that the culprits are closer than he thinks. Great concept, okay execution. The basic problem is that the premise is crying out for Shakespeare-level dialogue and character development but ultimately we don't really ever find out that much about what Philip Seymour Hoffman's problems are or why he hates his father so much or how it happened that Tomei would be sleeping with Hawks, so that the drama winds up underdeveloped from the get-go. On top of that, while I don't agree with Armond White that Sidney Lumet is a terrible director, I do have to agree with him that the visuals of this movie are fairly undernourished - considering that we're working with such tragic subject matter, a little more chiaroscuro would have helped, I think.
I don't want to give the idea that I disliked the movie, because I did find it entertaining and well-made, but all in all I'd say that I prefer Lumet's last film, the Brechtian courtroom drama Find Me Guilty, as a richer and weirder cinematic journey.