Freeze Frame: Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)

Sidney Lumet shows in this movie that he was still at the top of his game at the age of eighty-three.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Now here’s what you call an old-fashioned ripping good yarn. Sidney Lumet shows in this movie that he was still at the top of his game at the age of eighty-three. HD cameras, a non-linear narrative…he handles it all with élan and delivers an edge of the seat crime thriller with a heart. A crime is just a deed, an action like any other. What matters are the events before and after. The why’s and how’s leading up to the moment and the repercussions afterwards. That’s one thing this movie understands.

Andy Hanson is the older brother. He works in a real- estate firm. He draws a salary in six figures, has a sexy wife, Gina and lives a good life. But he has a drug problem. He’s having troubles in his office with the IRS. And his comfortable, prosperous life is about to fall apart. Unless he can lay his hands on money…a lot of it. So that he can start afresh. He plans to go to Brazil with Gina and set up his own real-estate business there.

Hank Hanson is bankrupt. He’s having an affair with his brother’s wife. His ex-wife Martha despises him for his inability to pay child-support on time. When his daughter asks him for 130 dollars so that she can go on a class-trip, he is forced to disappoint her. Now, he is at real risk of being regarded as a complete loser even by his daughter.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Andy goes with a proposal to Hank. He has a foolproof plan for a heist on a jewelry store. It’s a mom and pop operation. Both of them have worked there and know the security systems. They will do it on a Saturday morning, when there are few customers. The insurance will cover the losses of the store owners. No one will be hurt. It will be the easiest money they will ever make. The only catch is that it is their parents’ shop…

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But things go wrong…terribly wrong. People get hurt. Remorse appears into the picture, eating away at the soul. There is also the fear of getting caught. Added to all this is the hard fact that Andy and Hank still need the money…their situation has turned even more perilous now. Their father Charles is shattered. Frustrated with the inaction of the cops he starts off an investigation on his own. Events hurtle inexorably towards the inevitable.

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Andy with the perfect mix of guile, recklessness and desperation. The scene where he learns of Gina’s infidelity, his reaction or the lack of it, shows a man, teetering on the edge of a precipice. Ethan Hawke as the clueless, self-pitying ‘baby’ of the family brings a dangerously frantic edge to his character.

None of the characters are likable. They have made a mess of their lives and in an effort to fix it, wreck whatever was left. In telling their story, the movie develops a narrow focus. But in times when Hollywood churns out dumb, gadget-filled, special effects laden supposed thrillers with alarming regularity, it’s good to get a dramatic crime story about real people and their perplexing dilemmas and choices.


Founder/Creator of Talking Films. Created Talking films back in 2009 and has been an ardent cinema lover for the past 2 decades.


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