Dusting Off... Before The Devil Knows You're Dead
What is it?
Released in 2007, Before The Devil Knows You're Dead is the final film by legendary director Sidney Lumet, released four years before his death in 2011. Part heist movie, part family drama, the film stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as Andy Hanson, a middle-aged payroll executive working a steady job for a real estate company in New York, but he has problems. Andy is a drug addict and to support his habit he has been using his position to embezzle funds from the company by continuing to draw salaries for two departed employees.
When the company announces it is about to undertake an audit, Andy realises he's going to be found out and needs to raise money fast. He contacts his younger brother Hank (Ethan Hawke), who has money problems of his own; he owes three months' worth of child support and can't bear to face his daughter and tell her he cannot afford to pay for her school trip to see The Lion King.
Andy hatches a plan to raise the money they both need by robbing a jewellery store. Hank is initially reluctant but agrees to his brother's plan, partly out of desperation, partly out of guilt about he fact he and Andy's wife have been having an affair. But there's a catch; the jewellery store they are planning to rob belongs to their parents, Charles and Nanette (Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris).
The pair figure that nobody will really lose out since their parents will be able to claim the losses from their insurers, while Andy & Hank get the cash they need to dig themselves out of their respective holes. They decide to rob the store on a day when their parents' elderly assistant, Doris, will be working alone. Andy tells Hank that they can use a toy gun as Doris is short-sighted and will never know the difference.
However, the heist doesn't go to plan. Andy persuades Hank that he should carry out the robbery as he is less likely to be recognised in the neighbourhood, but Hank is too nervous and hires an acquaintance, Bobby (Brian O'Byrne) to do the job for him. Bobby brings a real gun and goes into the store, only to find that Nanette, not Doris, is working that day. Nanette pulls a gun from under the counter, a shootout ensues, and when the dust settles things begin to really spin out of control for the two brothers.
Why should I revisit?
Sidney Lumet is, quite rightly, regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, with a long list of brilliant movies to his name that includes Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Serpico and Murder on the Orient Express, among many others. His final film was given a fairly low-key release and, as a result, turned a modest profit of only $7 million at the box office. It is, however, up there with his best films and the brilliantly written script and superb performances by the film's talented cast will keep you glued to the screen and on the edge of your seat throughout.
Who will enjoy it?
If you're a fan of crime dramas in general then this will obviously be right up your street, but really, we cannot recommend this film highly enough and it's good enough to be thoroughly enjoyed by absolutely anybody.