Andy Hanson (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a successful business man happily married to his attractive wife Gina (Marisa Tomei) – or so it seems. In reality, Andy is embezzling money from his company to finance his drug habit and a financial audit is imminent, and there is no passion left in his marriage. To cover up his embezzlement, Andy plans to rob his parent’s mom and pop jewellery store with his brother Henry (Ethan Hawke) who is broke and overdue with alimony payments – and has a secret affair with Gina. According to the plan, the insurance will pay his parents for the robbed money and jewellery, nobody will be hurt, and everyboy wins.
But the robbery doesn’t go according to the plan, and all of a sudden corpses start to pile up.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead tells a very simple story of a heist going wrong and the consequences for the involved family and makes it look more complex than it is with the trick of revealing the plot in overlapping flashbacks from alternating viewpoints.
But it’s not so much about the plot – it’s an actor’s playground. While the events are unfolding, Ethan Hawke and especially Philip Seymour Hoffman reveal layer after layer of their characters’ personality. It’s a pity that the grandiose Marisa Tomei (who bravely appears semi-nude throughout almost all of her screen-time) doesn’t have her own flashback sequences, but then, maybe it’s appropriate for the (non-)character Gina who lives with a man she doesn’t really love, has an affair with his brother and has close to zero self-esteem.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is more family drama than heist-thriller and will appeal to a different crowd than, let’s say Bad Boys II, but if you prefer extraordinary acting to flashy FX, funky music and “cool” style, or if you are an admirer of the lovely Marisa Tomei, then you will love this.