Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Capsule Review: Before The Devil Knows You're Dead

Movie: Before The Devil Knows You're Dead
Director/Studio: Sidney Lumet / ThinkFilm
10 Word Review: Heist gone bad freshened up by smart direction, strong acting.
Best Thing About It: The idea of a nonlinear timeline jazzing up an otherwise unremarkable story will understandably get eyes to rolling in the post-Iñaritu cinematic landscape, but the way Lumet presents the jagged timeline, there's a purpose behind it beyond mere showing off. Each pass at the story we know a little bit more about the characters and their circumstances, so each pass at the story is a little different. It's refreshing to see a device that was rapidly becoming hackneyed used in an intelligent way.
Worst Thing About It: I suppose Ethan Hawke's performance could be described as appropriately unhinged, as befits his character. I found it off-puttingly over the top almost throughout. I get that he's the weak one. I'm not sure we needed all the jittery double-takes.
Best Performance: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who seems to have shed a lot of the tics that have long bothered me and made it unable to enjoy about half of his performances. Here, he reveals his character sparingly, bit by bit, until by the end we can see every ugly, scary, sad, sympathetic, contemptible part of him.
Oscar Prospects: A Best Director nod for old pro Lumet isn't out of the question, but the film itself doesn't seem very Oscary. Hoffman's performance here might bolster his Best Actor chances...for The Savages. And if the editors are thinking beyond the Best Picture field, a Best Editing nod would be well deserved. As for all this dark horse talk for Marisa Tomei...I really don't see it. She's fine, but she has no big clip scene and she's aggressively sexual, which isn't exactly Academy catnip.

Grade: B+

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