Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

11th January 2008 at 00:00

Philip Seymour Hoffman, that doyen of baby-faced menace, surpasses his performance in 2005's Capote in this bleak and tangled melodrama of family betrayal and greed.

Together with Ethan Hawke, Hoffman stars as the elder of two brothers who conspire to solve their financial problems by robbing their parents' Manhattan jewellery store.

Hoffman is creepy and dislikeable as Andy, the arrogant, drug-addicted estate agent, who manipulates his pathetic younger brother (Hawke) into carrying out the botched theft.

Their actions trigger a series of events that lead them even further into the dirt. The title of the film - directed by Sidney Lumet, maker of old-time films such as 12 Angry Men and A View from the Bridge - comes from the expression: "May you be in heaven for half an hour before the devil knows you're dead."

It's not a film for those who like their characters with redeeming features. In the words of the ageing jewellery dealer who provides the motto of the piece: "The world is an evil place. Some people make money from it and some people are destroyed by it."

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