Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Fun Fact: I received a piece of hate mail after this review came out. Enjoy!

Republished with permission from Creative Screenwriting:

No Such Thing As a Victimless Crime

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Kelly Masterson

In Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) proposes to his screw-up younger brother, Hank (Ethan Hawke), that they rob their parents' suburban jewelry store. A lot of nervous laughter, flop sweat, and hand-wringing follows -- but very little planning. Andy is convinced he's masterminded a victimless crime: Hank will use a fake gun, and Mom (Rosemary Harris) and Dad (Albert Finney) will receive insurance money. Unfortunately, Hank outsources the task to an acquaintance who doesn't get the memo about the gun; after that, events go from catastrophic to worse in the out-of-order scenes. The brothers' motivations are shaky. Andy is a well-to-do albeit drug-addicted broker who wants to move to Rio with his troubled wife, Gina (Marisa Tomei), because they were happy there once on vacation. As for Hank, he owes child support, and his daughter needs cash to see a Broadway show with the rest of her private school. It's not like anyone's funding a sex change operation (as in Dog Day Afternoon, director Sidney Lumet's previous heist movie); nor are they hurting to put food on the table. Albert Finney's grief and his determined quest for justice are moving, but it's difficult to empathize with Hawke or Seymour's characters, because neither of them makes a single logical choice. (Also, Hank's phrase, "You'd be doing me a favor," spoken to the barrel of a loaded gun, should be copyright of Rick inCasablanca.) There is a certain dreadful excitement in watching the Devil brothers scramble to escape their fates, however.
- Sarah Skilton


  1. Sorry about the hate mail! I guess someone needs to work on the thick skin solution. This does not feel harsh, to me.

  2. Thanks, Victoria. Part of me was embarrassed when the angry email showed up (CC'd to my editor, no less), and part of me was proud to have elicited such a strong reaction!