Sidney Lumet’s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” is one of those hidden gems that not a lot of people know about, but those that do love it. It’s easy to see why: From the moment the movie begins, it’s clear we’re in good hands because the dialogue is snappy, the camerawork is forceful and fluid, and the narrative hits the ground running without sacrificing depth or character development. Among the all-star cast, there are a number of stand-out performances but none better than Philip Seymour Hoffman: This may be the late performer’s finest hour, with a performance positively brimming with barely controlled fury mixed with raging insecurities under the cover of traditional alpha male masculinity, and he’s a wonder to behold. As his younger brother, Ethan Hawke is cast against type as a brittle, failed golden child facing the consequences of his irresponsibility, while Albert Finney and Marisa Tomei also deliver strong performances in impressively meaty supporting roles. With a structure not unlike “Pulp Fiction,” the narrative can be a little disorienting to follow at times but it all comes together in the end, and is worth the journey every step of the way.
Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)