From the unexpectedly graphic opening shot, director Sidney Lumet proves he hasn't lost any of his bite with age. BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD is a riveting suspense thriller that retains the director's classic approach to storytelling while updating it at the same time. Working from an intense, expertly woven script by playwright-turned-screenwriter Kelly Masterson, Lumet establishes his tragic tone immediately. The story concerns a New York family with a roiling undercurrent of dysfunction. The eldest son, Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is a frustrated, drug-abusing stockbroker who is unable to satisfy his gorgeous wife (Marisa Tomei). The youngest son, Hank (Ethan Hawke), is passive and struggles to make alimony payments. Their parents (Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris) live in Westchester and operate a small jewellery store. Their lives begin to unravel when Andy approaches Hank about pulling off a heist that will seemingly solve all of their monetary problems. Everything about this idea is risky, yet Andy convinces his timid younger brother that this is his only way out of his current situation. Naturally, their plan falls apart, resulting in a series of tragedies that they never could have predicted.
BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD belongs beside such Lumet classics as DOG DAY AFTERNOON, NETWORK, and SERPICO. The cinematography and editing and score are all excellent, but the performances are what launch the film into the stratosphere. Oscar-winner Hoffman (CAPOTE) and Finney have never been better, and the rest of the cast--Hawke, Tomei, Michael Shannon--rise to the occasion with unforgettable results.