Sunday, June 01, 2008

Before The Devil Knows You're Dead

My entire life, I've been disturbed by "selfishness." Not necessarily the I-gotta-get-mine everyday act of being selfish; rather, the decisions some make to gain a measure of power for themselves, or the acts carried out which effect horribly the lives of other people. Some quick examples, from film:

12 Angry Men: Jurors originally begin to debate the life of an accused man in a flip, superficial manner based deeply in their selfish perspectives. It's only after those perspectives are exposed and challenged by the lone hold-out do the jurors truly begin to discuss the case in an honest fashion;

Running On Empty: Danny Pope, played wonderfully by the late River Phoenix, grows tired of being on the run with his fugitive family and makes decisions designed to give him performance even while jeopardizing his family's security;

Serpico: The classic story of one man's fight against selfishness and corruption within his occupation, and how he struggled to stay true to his moral convictions despite overwhelming odds;

Dog Day Afternoon: A movie that depicts--as well as any-- how trying to have it all can lead to both selfish acts and desperate measures.

Not so coincidentally, each of those films --like the movie Before The Devil Knows You're Dead -- is directed by Sidney Lumet. Lumet seems attracted to stories that center of acts of selfishness, and how decisions leading up to the act and the results of the act play out. Lumet's work always gives a very honest, transparent view into those small moments where the selfish decision is made.

This is also the aspect most important in Before The Devil: the selfish actions of two brothers that lead them into the desperate act of staging a robbery at a family-owned jewelry shop, and how the reactions of the family members play out after the plan goes tragically wrong. The robbery itself isn't that interesting, but the events leading up to it and those which occur after it are fascinating.

Ethan Hawke and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are brilliant as the distinctly different but equally desperate brothers. Marisa Tomei gives her best performance in years. And Albert Finney, the father of the main characters, gives a performance that will break your heart.

It's a Danny Gut film, but it's worth the viewing.

2 comments:

Evil Twin's Wife said...

We just watched this one a few weeks ago. I love PSH.

We watched "He Was A Quiet Man" last night. Check it out if you get a chance. I think it's one you'd appreciate.

Jackie said...

Nice review! I saw this preview and thought it looked good. Now Ima check it out :D