Friday, October 6, 2017

Before The Devil Knows You're Dead (2007) New York Noir

Dysfunctional family noir.

Directed by the legendary Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men (1957), The Fugitive Kind (1960), The Pawnbroker (1964), Fail-Safe (1964), Serpico (1973), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), The Verdict (1982)). He was one of the busiest directors of the post studio era. This was his last feature film before his death in 2011.

The cinematography was by Ron Fortunato and the music was by Carter Burwell (Fargo (1996), Miller's Crossing (1990), Barton Fink (1991)).

The film stars Philip Seymour Hoffman (Boogie Nights (1997), The Big Lebowski (1998), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), Red Dragon (2002)), as Andy Hanson, Ethan Hawke (Gattaca (1997)) as Hank Hanson,
Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny (1992), The Wrestler (2008)) as Gina Hanson, Albert Finney (Tom Jones (1963), Gumshoe (1971), Miller's Crossing (1990)) as Charles Hanson, Rosemary Harris (The Boys from Brazil (1978)) as Nanette Hanson, Brían F. O'Byrne (Million Dollar Baby (2004)) as Bobby Lasorda, Aleksa Palladino (Boardwalk Empire TV Series (2010–2014)) as Chris Lasorda, Michael Shannon (Vanilla Sky (2001), The Missing Person (2009), Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009), The Iceman (2012), Boardwalk Empire TV Series (2010–2014)) as Dex, Leonardo Cimino (Mad Dog Coll (1961), The Young Savages (1961),  Naked City TV Series (1958–1963), Moonstruck (1987)), as William, and Amy Ryan (The Missing Person (2009) as Martha Hanson.

Everything a Noir should be. It's about slimeballs. It's about losers. It's about family. It's about infidelity. It's about desperation. It's about dead ends and about broken dreams. A get rich quick scheme.  A simple story of a robbery that's gone horribly, horribly, wrong. It's about Murphy's Law.

Andy (Hoffman)

Hank (Hawke)

Nannette (Harris)

Bobby (O'Byrne)

Gina (Tomei)

Charles (Finney)

Dex (Shannon)

Martha  (Ryan)

Chris (Palladino)

William (Cimino)
Andy Hanson, Manhattanite, corporate real estate stooge, embezzler, drug addict, silver tongued devil. Dreaming of Rio on other people's money. Hank Hanson, basement dwelling screw off, the weak kid brother with the good looks. Mom and Dad likes him best. But he's a deadbeat dad three months behind on his alimony. His wife thinks he's a bum, his own daughter thinks he's a loser, harsh. He's even screwing Andy's wife Gina, skeezy, it's a brother tag team, so of course given this dish, Gina is another piece of work.

Andy, getting desperate as his big bubble world is crumbling around him, geezes up a job that's pure CAKE.  The stickup of their parents Mom & Pop jewelry store in a Westchester Mall.

Andy Hanson: We don't want Tiffany's. We want a Mom and Pop operation, in a busy place, on a Saturday when the week's takes go in the safe. We both worked there. We know the safe combinations. We know the burglar alarm signals. We know where everything is. I figure, between the week's take, the jewelry and the cases, the vault, there's a $500,000 haul. I figure probably six. The old dumb old lady that works there, she's alone till noon. She's not going to be a problem.
Hank Hanson: Andy...
Andy Hanson:  Yeah?
Andy Hanson:  That's mom and dad's store.
Andy Hanson:  That's what I said. A Mom and Pop operation.

We go in on Saturday morning just when old lady what's her name, Doris opens to door. Wave a gun in her face. Scare the shit out of her. Empty the cash register, the safe, the displays, and scram. The insurance covers the loss and damages. Nobody loses.. I will take the swag to a fence down in the city that Dad once knew in the Diamond District. $500,000 in diamonds/jewels nets $120,000 and we are flush.

But Andy wants Hank to do it alone. He tells Hank, no, no little brother, I was up there recently and may get recognized. Oily Andy drops a couple grand of embezzled money under desperately broke Hank's nose as bait. Operating money. All that moola goes to Hank's head but Hank can't do it stag. He doesn't have the gonads. He visits an acquaintance, an ex con, buss boy, petty thief named Bobby Lasorda, he convinces him to do the actual robbery, Hank will drive the rental getaway car.

Saturday morning. So what could go wrong. Bobby goes in, and scares the shit out of the old lady. Only the old Lady ain't Doris it's Nannette, Hank and Andy's mom, which Hank would have seen if he had balls enough to do it himself. For Bobby, though, you seen one old lady you've seen them all, and he goes on with the plan. Empties the cash register and the safe, dumping trays of diamonds into a sack. Nannette however, is no Doris, when Bobby has his back to her breaking the glass counter tops she grabs a gun out of a drawer and blasts him. Bobby shoots back hitting Nannette. Bobby slides and stumbles for the door and Nannette from the floor squeezes off another shot sending Bobby through the plate glass door. He comes to rest lying very dead among the shards. Hank shits his pants and peels out of the parking lot and down the rabbit hole to Noirsville.


The story is told nicely in individual flashbacks that sort of rewind, overlap, and take off from different character's points of view. The acting from all the principals is intense. Charles Hanson, played by Albert Finney is at first devastated, then resigned and finally desperate as he goes on a quiet vendetta when the police seem to be blowing him off. Philip Seymour Hoffman's Andy is tragic, he  gives a tour de force going very convincingly the full range of human emotions. Watch for Michael Shannon as Dex the scummy brother in law of dead Bobby who puts the touch on Hank to cover the loss of Bobby for his sister and her daughter. Hell, he doesn't want to be stuck with taking care of her.

Excellent last film for Lumet, excellent dysfunctional family Neo Noir, like a train wreck that you can't stop watching. 9/10

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