11.30.2007

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead.

I know, I know, it's not supposed to be realistic, it's MELODRAMA with capital letters, actions first, characters second, but jeez, are the people in this movie dumb about certain things. It works, though, at least on some level. There's a fascination in watching these people go down, but I hesitate to throw around words like "greek tragedy" (as some critics have), because stupidity doesn't quite count as a fatal character flaw, nor do daddy issues. Furthermore, I'm usually all for playing for continuity, but it simply had no purpose in this film, and didn't really disguise the fact that the story was really quite simple. There was no reason for it, either, since the story starts out more or less at the start, and end up exactly at the end.


But enough of the whining, because despite the above, this is an enjoyable thriller, even it's more a movie to rent on a rainy day than one to see in the cinema. For the guys, there's Marisa Tomei topless about half of her screen time, and for all of us, there is yet another great performance by Philip Seymous Hoffman, who really is one of best and most reliable actors in his generation, and totally devoid of vanity. There is a scene in which he calmly, methodically turns his place upside down, and he does it in a way that's both surprising and entirely in character. He's a character who's interesting beyond the story he's trapped in. Unfortunately, he is the only one. I'm probably being overly harsh here, and possibly I was burdened with overly high expectations (88 on metacritic, and 88% fresh on rotten tomatoes), but this film, unfortunately, didn't really do it for me.

1 comment:

cjKennedy said...

I haven't reviewed this one yet (which maybe should be telling me something right there), but I think it's fair to say I liked it just a little more than you.

Perhaps it's because I had lower expectations. Perhaps Marisa Tomei hypnotized my Y chromosome.

Anyway, alarm bells went off for me as soon as I saw they were going to fiddle with the chronology and I was prepared to reject the whole thing if it didn't justify itself. I'm tired of boring stories hidden by fancy storytelling.

The thing is, I sort of found a purpose to it. The robbery is an important point in the lives of each character...it's sort of the turning point beyond which they can't take back the lifetime of horrible decisions they've made. By putting it first, you get it out of the way and you can focus on the more interesting aspects of what happens before and what happens after. What led to this point?

Told chronologically, it just would've been a crime story, but this way it was a character study and a pretty interesting one.

Particularly fascinating of course was PSH. How many great performances does that guy have to give in one year before they name a special Oscar award after him???

Anyway. That's my take. Maybe I should write that review after all.