Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (Sidney Lumet, 2007)

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Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (Sidney Lumet, 2007)

#1 Post by Jeff » Wed Jun 27, 2007 12:17 am

Here is a trailer (of sorts) for Sidney Lumet's upcoming thriller with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Albert Finney, and Ethan Hawke. The film doesn't have a U.S. distributor yet, and this looks like a trailer put together by the production company to try to sell it to one. It's rather long and gives away much of the plot, but I'm intrigued.
Last edited by Jeff on Thu Jun 12, 2008 2:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#2 Post by Antoine Doinel » Wed Jun 27, 2007 10:33 am

Wow, very interesting trailer. I'm hoping the strength of the cast will get it some decent distribution unlike Lumet's last film, Find Me Guilty, which went straight to video.

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#3 Post by Belmondo » Wed Jun 27, 2007 11:11 am

Antoine Doinel wrote:Wow, very interesting trailer. I'm hoping the strength of the cast will get it some decent distribution unlike Lumet's last film, Find Me Guilty, which went straight to video.
That can't be true, can it? I'm sure I recollect a theatrical release for FIND ME GUILTY and I remember reading reviews on Netflix months before the DVD, so they must have seen it in the theater.

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#4 Post by Jeff » Tue Sep 25, 2007 11:16 pm

Antoine Doinel wrote:Find Me Guilty, which went straight to video.
Find Me Guilty didn't get much of a push by Yari, but they did release it in 439 U.S. theaters.

Thinkfilm is distributing Devil, and it just got a very solid review in The Hollywood Reporter.

Here is the Cool Saul Bass-inspired poster art.
Last edited by Jeff on Mon Dec 03, 2007 12:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#5 Post by Magic Hate Ball » Wed Sep 26, 2007 1:03 am

Needs more Saul Bass.

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#6 Post by souvenir » Wed Sep 26, 2007 1:28 am

I have high hopes for this. It sold out very fast at the NYFF and early critic screenings seem to have gone well, especially regarding Hoffman's performance. ThinkFilm really did an astounding job getting Ryan Gosling an Oscar nomination last year for a film that grossed about $2 million and I expect to see something out of this when awards season comes around. I doubt Lumet can win, but, at 83, a nomination seems plausible.

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#7 Post by montgomery » Fri Nov 09, 2007 12:51 pm

Not sure why this film is being ignored on this board - I found it languishing on page 3. I couldn't believe how good this was. I'm not even a big Lumet fan, this was probably may favorite of his films. There's some things that don't make sense, and the last 30 minutes don't live up to the first 90, though at least it doesn't totally fall apart. But all things considered, it was one of my favorites of the year. Almost as depressing and intense as Ran.

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#8 Post by margot » Wed Nov 14, 2007 12:28 am

Why didn't Andy just make an appointment at the drug dealers house instead of barging in? That way he could've taken the gun once the drug dealer put it back in the desk and no one else would've been there. Also what kind of drug dealer keeps a safe open with (presumably) hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and tons of drugs? Why even have a safe? Why does the drug dealer bring a gun to the door everytime he opens it if he's going to just put it away and let his clients roam around his apartment?

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#9 Post by kaujot » Wed Nov 14, 2007 4:53 am

What a bummer of a movie. I mean, it's great, but Jesus, makes you feel like crap watching it.

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#10 Post by chaddoli » Wed Nov 14, 2007 11:50 am

Agree with Duke here.

The film really falls apart in the third act. Another question, why oh why didn't they just book it after the drug dealers??? It's fucking ABSURD that they went to see the blackmailers!

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#11 Post by montgomery » Wed Nov 14, 2007 12:27 pm

Yeah, the third act doesn't hold up. When I said earlier that it doesn't "completely fall apart" it's only because I've come to expect that most films will fall apart in the third act. (Spoilers:) But the ending was problematic for so many reasons. I suppose the final scene with the drug-dealer was supposed to be ironic: they scored the money they were after instantly (although it is absurd that the safe was open). I was disappointed that Lumet felt the need to make the drug-dealer sequences figure into the final sequence. The stuff with the blackmailers was ludicrous too.
But the biggest problem for me was that, in the end, the film turned on Andy, making him into the villain. When I saw it, people applauded when his father killed him--a bizarre, inapproroprate reaction under any circumstances, but I have to admit that it's almost as if Lumet was asking for it. Andy was certainly not a good person, but neither was anyone else in the film. But by the end, he was just another gun-waving psychopath.
A lot of things in the film were problematic, but the first 90 minutes were so intense, I think it's definitely worth seeing.

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#12 Post by ogygia avenue » Wed Nov 14, 2007 7:56 pm

So Ethan Hawke doesn't die.



#13 Post by marty » Wed Nov 14, 2007 8:21 pm

I didn't have any problem with the film and it is one of the best films I have seen this year. If only more films were this good. The performances, writing and direction by Lumet were top-notch. Give me this film any day over the some of the unintelligible drivel screening in many cinemas today.

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#14 Post by Cronenfly » Sat Nov 17, 2007 12:59 am

The film really falls apart in the third act. Another question, why oh why didn't they just book it after the drug dealers??? It's fucking ABSURD that they went to see the blackmailers!
***SPOILERS AHEAD***I was able to buy into the third act, to an extent, and I think that it mostly had to do with the death wish both brothers seemed to have in the latter part of the film (the absurdity of their actions is in keeping with their fevered state[s]). The fact that Andy in particular is so intent on wrapping up every loose end makes sense (to his character at least), given how many details went wrong in the original robbery (and in so many other parts of the film). He may go too far and develop into too much of a gun-waving psychopath, but I don't think that the character had anywhere else to go at that point, and Hoffman was able to sell me on it well enough to keep me involved. The open safe and the drug boy's lackadaisal gun-toting were definitely ridiculous, though, but the movie avoids tripping up on enough plot points that I'm willing to concede it a few.

As well, Andy, having confessed to the indifferent-to-spiteful drug-administering boy so many times through the movie, must have imposed his father's and wife's similar dismissals of his emotional outbursts on the boy (though that's probably psychologizing too much, as is most of this paragraph). The boy acts as a gateway to all of the violence that follows, and Andy's shooting of the other heavyset man on the boy's administering bed verges on metaphorical suicide (and more or less leads him yet further down the pathway to his own demise). It was perhaps unfair to to Andy's character to make him so close to an out and out villain, but I suppose Lumet's occasional tendency to moralize got the better of him with regards to Andy's character (though Finney's killing of Andy complicates matters even further).

I thought that Finney's performance was quite poor, verging on mugging and with ridiculous facial gymnastics that removed me from most all of the scenes involving his character. Tomei's role is indeed pretty minor, but I didn't think she hurt the film, and she gave it a character to sympathize with at least a bit (even with her infidelity and self-loathing, she still was easier to identify with than anybody else in the movie). Hawke is adequate, but Hoffman is superb: this is, IMO, his best performance to date (his Capote didn't enrapture me like it did some, and I've found him ill-suited to a lot of the roles he's played). The transitions into the flashbacks are too disruptive, but the film's structure is otherwise very successful. The use of digital cameras is only noticeable in a few scenes, and the film generally looks very strong. It makes excellent use of long/wide shots (occasionally akin to Kurosawa's Ran-an apt connecting of the two generally, montgomery), and the Burwell score is very effective (reminded me a bit of Blood Simple's score at times).

I hope this is a sign of more to come from Lumet, as he seems to have some good films left in him. Even with the problems the movie had, I still enjoyed it quite a bit.

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#15 Post by noelbotevera » Mon Dec 03, 2007 12:08 am

Liked this a lot, more than No Country for Old Men. Lumet at the moment seems like a far more nimble, expressive, a far younger filmmaker than the Coens.

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#16 Post by ranaing83 » Mon Dec 10, 2007 6:11 pm

I found this quite amusing. From this blog: ... mited.html
From a great new interview between Armond White and Steven Boone, after Boone praises Lumet:

AW: Uh-oh. Cuz now you're talking about one of the most slovenly filmmakers in the history of the medium! Don't mention that man in the same paragraph as David Lean! We're not on the same page at all. Sidney Lumet has never known what he's doing. And let me put an end to that discussion by saying, this is the man who made The Wiz.

SB: (laughs)

AW: Now we can talk about something else. (laughs)

SB: But did you see Before The Devil Knows You're Dead?

AW: I saw that garbage.

SB: Yeah?

AW: Utter garbage. Looked like shit.

SB: Tell me why.

AW: Why? You can't see half of it, because there are no color values in it. It looks like garbage.

SB: So it needs color values.

AW: It needs light!

SB: I think you're about to walk out. (laughs)

AW: (laughs) No, no. I'm trying to come up with an analogy... It just... needed somebody who knew what they were doing. He hires professionals to shoot the actors and the dialogue, that's it. As a film maker, he doesn't know what he's doing. Never has.

SB: To me, it moves in a certain way, visually it moves--

AW: What are you talking about? It's a mess! It has no rhythm. All those flashbacks. A mess!

SB: I wasn't getting into the flashbacks--

AW: It's an attempt at some kind of Tarantino time-split--

SB: That, to me, was just an older filmmaker trying to be in vogue but he was way behind. What I'm saying is, in the individual scenes, there was the simple pleasure of watching them play out without being crowded by the usual jumble of elements attempting to underscore or sell a moment. A simple pleasure. At this point, films are about trying to sell you a moment at every turn ....

AW: Well, with Lumet, his only gift is that he can keep an actor in focus as he says his dialogue, simple as that. He doesn't know how to shoot the scene, does not know how to compose a shot-- never has. Not in any interesting way. But he certainly knows how to keep actors in focus as they say their dialogue. He's been plying that trade for 40 years. He's not a filmmaker. He's still directing live TV. Ever see his film of Long Day's Journey Into Night? Great film because it's a great play with a great cast. He kept his camera focused on those great actors saying that great dialogue. That's it.

SB: What I'm getting into is more scenes that... breathe.

AW: I don't agree that they breathe.

SB: Okay, we're sitting here talking. Most Hollywood films today, of all different genres, are hectic, and I think it's a factor of editors that have been trained on non-linear editing systems, so that I'm talking to you, it instantly cuts to me, you're talking to me, it instantly cuts to you. A frenetic back and forth, and there's no attempt to vary rhythms. Everything is either extremely hectic or fake verite camera jostling.

AW: Well, that comes from television.

SB: I don't disagree with your assessment that Lumet's work feels like live television from the '50s, but guess what? Live television from the '50s, to me, if not ideal, is more cinematic in rhythm than what we're seeing today.

AW: No it's not. And don't ever say that again. (laughs) Live television in the fifties is live television. It’s not cinema. Lumet cuts on dialogue, Steve! He cuts on dialogue! There's no breathing in a Sidney Lumet film because he doesn't use the rhythms which which people communicate. He cuts on commas and periods.

SB: What's happening in contemporary films, to me, is that you have exactly that, except in overdrive.

AW: Sometimes it’s appropriate, given the subject or the temperament of the filmmaker. Some people can do that. Not every film does that.

SB: To me, it is the status quo.

A; Well, you need a better example than Lumet. What about The Darjeeling Limited? In a world that has The Darjeeling Limited, Sidney Lumet should be imprisoned!

SB: (laughs) But if you throw him in jail, you gotta throw, like, virtually everybody making films in Hollywood. They enter first.

AW: Well, of course, most films are dismissable, too. But you don't need to go to Lumet, go to Darjeeling Limited. That's rhythm. Every shot belongs to Wes Anderson.

SB: Right.

AW: A Sidney Lumet movie could have been directed by anybody. No personality. That's an 83 year old man who was always a hack.

SB: I guess I'm saying that yesterday's hacks show up today's hacks.

AW: I don't agree with that. I'd much rather watch a film by Michael Bay than one by Sidney Lumet.

SB: I don't think of Michael Bay as a hack in the strict sense. Stupid, maybe, but--

AW: Then what are you talking about when you say generally Hollywood films? Cuz generally Hollywood films look like Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and The Sopranos. If you want to talk about what has changed things and ruined the culture, its not the current administration [Sean's note: This refers to earlier in the interview], its television.

SB: Of course.

AW: It's fucked things up. It especially fucked up the critical profession, because people can't tell the difference between television and movies anymore.

SB: We're absolutely on the same page there. But Michael Bay, what that guy has is-- there's something to him when it comes down to certain lyric interludes or whatever. He's invested in every shot in a similar sense that you say Wes Anderson is.

AW: Well, in that sense he's more of an artist than Ridley Scott. Ridley Scott's a hack as well. The television visual sense. That's why Blade Runner doesn't hold up.

SB: Oooh.

AW: Of course. It's television. It was impressive for a moment, like, uh, June of 1982 to July of 1983. Then everybody copied. There's nothing in Blade Runner now that's impressive. Nothing.

SB: (staring in disbelief)

AW: Easily imitated, cuz Ridley Scott's a hack!

SB: The cinematography, the production design.

AW: Art direction, not film direction.

SB: You mean all that shining spotlights through the slats, the rain--

AW: Yeah, its garbage now.

SB: Wow.

AW: He's a hack. He's a gifted hack, in the sense that he does have an eye for beautiful things-- no, not beautiful, pretty things. Trained in television. Michael Bay has surpassed him.

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#17 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Mon Dec 10, 2007 6:23 pm

Wow, that stuff is classic. White sounds like he's friends with John Simon. Someone needs to throw in Scorsese or Tarantino to go one on one with White. Now that'd be a fireworks display!

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#18 Post by Barmy » Mon Dec 10, 2007 6:35 pm

I'd rather see him debate Rex Reed.

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#19 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Dec 10, 2007 6:40 pm

Pah! Put me in a room with that asshole and flick on the spotlights, I'd love it. He's simply bullying his fucking tastes around the room til they kick his interlocutor into Meekdom. He makes no sense whatsoever.

The best part is he has no idea what an asshole he made out of himself in that interview. I sincerely hope he's scared off all forthcoming booklet essays with that one.

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#20 Post by jbeall » Mon Dec 10, 2007 7:23 pm

Damn, what a jackass! At least it saves me the trouble of ever having to read something written by Armond White again. Some people are best ignored.

I love how Ridley Scott's a hack because people imitate him. :roll:

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#21 Post by rs98762001 » Mon Dec 10, 2007 7:32 pm

Well, Ridley Scott is a hack.

Aside from that, the comparison between White and John Simon isn't really fair, because Simon would eviscerate his targets with wit and style, while White's most stinging retort is basically "You suck!" And it's a bit sad to see him picking on octogenarians like Lumet, when there are plenty of younger, more deserving candidates at which to take aim.

Basically, all anyone needs to know about Armond is that he thinks AI is the greatest film ever. That alone should disqualify him from ever being taken seriously, which in any case I don't think anyone does.

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#22 Post by pemmican » Wed Dec 12, 2007 5:09 am

I have no idea who Armond White is, but reading that, I have no interest in finding out.

I quite liked Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. Haven't seen a Lumet in years - I checked out after Q&A and winced when he remade Gloria, which just seems like a Bad Idea - but I'm amazed at how lean and smart this film is, even with a few things that test ones suspension of disbelief (Everyone seems to have their own bone to pick - I liked Albert Finney and the ending, but I thought the - spoiler! - subplot about the affair screamed "plot device" and never really made sense in terms of the brothers' relationship. It COULD have, but it wasn't made credible, was too rushed).

Anyone seen a film of Lumet's called The Offense? (Early 70's thing with Sean Connery). It's been awhile, but I remember it as being a VERY ambitious film - remember thinking that it seemed like Lumet was trying his own take on Blow Up -- while dissecting, if I recall, the psyche of a homophobic cop -- but it's been so long since I've seen it I really have no confidence in those impressions. It's one I want to look at again, tho'). I'd put it, Prince of the City, and this film up there as his top three works (of those I've seen).

Is Find Me Guilty a must-see, or...?


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#23 Post by pemmican » Thu Dec 13, 2007 6:23 am

I can answer my own question: I saw FIND ME GUILTY tonight. Great performances, many interesting bits, but by no means an essential film. Not bad, but BEFORE THE DEVIL... is in another league.


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#24 Post by domino harvey » Thu May 22, 2008 12:56 am

Yeah this movie was depressing alright, but it still wasn't very good. Way too showy and obnoxious for the first third (NUDITY--FLASHBACK--NUDITY--FLASHBACK &c &c &c) and then the final act is, as mentioned, an utter mess. Everyone hams it up to astonishing John Lithgow-levels and the chronology-messing in the first half is distracting at best. I'm not cosigning with Armond White, as Lumet has made plenty of good films, but this was basically A Simple Plan with more swears.

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#25 Post by Dylan » Tue May 27, 2008 4:31 am

domino harvey wrote:Yeah this movie was depressing alright, but it still wasn't very good. Way too showy and obnoxious for the first third (NUDITY--FLASHBACK--NUDITY--FLASHBACK &c &c &c) and then the final act is, as mentioned, an utter mess. Everyone hams it up to astonishing John Lithgow-levels and the chronology-messing in the first half is distracting at best. I'm not cosigning with Armond White, as Lumet has made plenty of good films, but this was basically A Simple Plan with more swears.
I didn't even think it was depressing - the characters are so under-written and one-dimensional, the writing so gloriously un-insightful and the plot illogical that I found it reasonably difficult to care. It also looks particularly ugly, and I found the cutting to be incredibly obvious.

The only thing this has going for it are a number of good performances from actors who can be great (though Finney's surprisingly weak). Hawke and Hoffman are good. Michael Shannon's fun (quite a different role than his incredible turn in Bug). Marisa Tomei adds as much depth as humanly possible to the insulting cliche of a role she was handed (she's such a great actress and astonishing natural beauty that she deserves so much more than this... I hope she has a good role coming her way sometime soon).

With that said, I've seen two Lumet films prior to this - Network, one of the greatest films of the seventies, and The Pawnbroker, a moving and beautifully filmed piece with Rod Steiger's greatest performance and a terrific Quincy Jones score. Hopefully some of the gaps I have yet to fill are more on the caliber of this early work.

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