Sunday, January 13, 2008

BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD - superb performances wasted on a thin script

Director Sidney Lumet of SERPICO and DOG DAY AFTERNOON fame returns to the screen with an emotional melodrama centred around a caper gone wrong. Two brothers - both in debt, resentful of each other and suffering failed marriages - decide to rob their parents store. The heist goes wrong, the mother dies and they are threatened with blackmail. Andy, the elder, dominant brother, decides to rob his drug-dealer in a last-ditch attempt to set the accounts straight but, this being your typical caper gone wrong plot, he only escalates matters. Pretty soon, we're sinking in murder, betrayal and seven shades of shit-creek.

The plot structure of this film is predictable and thin. Writer Kelly Masterson tries to make it seem more interesting by using a non-linear over-lapping Rashomon type structure. It's all gimmick, no balls. The production quality is pretty lousy too. DP Ron Fortunato doesn't light the interior scenes properly and the DV print is of poor quality. Pretty much the only thing I liked was Carter Burwell's score. But all this is just about offset by some particularly fine perfomances in front of the camera, not least from Philip Seymour Hoffman as the impotent, smack-addict, thieving cuckold. He deserves gongs for this performance, CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR or both. It's just a shame that the story couldn't have been as credible and fresh as his performance.

BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD played Toronto 2007 and was released in France, the US, Taiwan and Russia in 2007. It is currently on release in the UK and opens later in January in Belgium and Sweden. The movie opens in Portugal, Argentina, Spain and Norway in February and opens in the Netherlands on April 3rd.

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