Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Film #106


When two brothers organize the robbery of their parents’ jewelry store the job goes horribly wrong, triggering a series of events that sends them, their father and one brother’s wife hurtling towards a shattering climax.

Year 1, Day 105

BEFORE: Philip Seymour Hoffman takes the leading role and Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon) takes the director’s chair for his final film, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

AFTER: I am a big fan of non-linear storytelling. Flashbacks or otherwise non-chronological events have a tendency to make a film that much more exciting to watch because it adds a level of complexity. As a viewer, this requires you to stay alert and be actively piecing together the different scenes. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead presents an interesting dilemma because the complexity from the non-linear style detracts from the story instead of drawing your attention. It felt a lot like Memento even though the whole film was not told in reverse. But this feeling of constant temporal changes could have been dealt with a bit better. It’s not the worst use of non-linear storytelling I’ve seen but it made an otherwise great story into just a decent one.

Besides the story, there’s also the acting to consider. Yet again, Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers a great performance as does Albert Finney (last seen as a cameo in The Bourne Legacy). Ethan Hawke was a bit so-so; definitely subpar compared to Training Day. I must note that there were some scenes, even with Hoffman, that seemed a bit forced and unnatural for the actors. These were few and far between but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is an interesting non-linear crime drama. It features some great acting and a generally good story that’s marred a bit by editing.

RATING: 4 out of 5