Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Sidney Lumet is over 80 years old. He has been making films for over 50 years and has made some of my favorite films such as 'Network (1976)' '12 Angry Men(1957)', 'Dog Day Afternoon (1975)', and to a lesser extent 'The Verdict(1982).' His last few movies though have generally been very disappointing.  And as a lot of filmmakers have done lately (Woody Allen & Coen Brothers jump to mind immediately), when the chips are down, you go off the deep mind and make something that is out of your recent character but essentially pulls you back to basics.

'Before the devil knows...' is one of those harrowing films that are designed ground-up to be shocking. Right from the beginning, through the middle and all the way to the very end. Everything seems calculated to titillate  you. A fundamentally overboard theme, a misguided, creaky plot and characters so hopelessly flawed that you never ever develop any sympathy for them. Unfortunately, what keeps the film gripping and keeps you focused also helps erode its appeal. The downward spiral that the characters willingly step in, in a moment of poor judgement, seems so tailormade for disaster that it isn't clear why people would be so stupid to go ahead. And yet, in real life we see it all the time.

Humans are driven to thrill-seeking by evolutionary mandates and we all make mistakes that are so stupid in hindsight that we wonder what sane person would ever commit it. And yet we do it all the time.  However, in the story with a fundamentally flawed plot (the money the brothers would've made by robbing their parents' store and selling at 20% was just inconsequential for its intended use) and characters even more flawed, there is something terribly unreal and disconcerting.

Marisa Tomei, incredibly fit at 43 and naked in most of the film might be the most unreal thing of all. After one of Hollywood's finest performance ever as the car wank waif in My Cousin Vinny, she just seemed to disappear. Here she is after 15 years and a bunch of petty roles, finally trying her hardest to get back and alas this is the only way she is offered. That might actually be 'Before the Devil...''s biggest showcasing of misanthropy.