Before the Devil Knows Youre Dead

James Douglas
March 6, 2008

Sidney Lumet’s excellent crime thriller Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead (the second part of the Irish blessing ‘May you be in Heaven’) seems to centre on an ill-conceived and ultimately disastrous heist but actually focuses on how a dysfunctional family successfully tears itself apart. Brothers Andy and Hank Hanson hatch the harebrained scheme to rob their parents’ jewellery store to cover their debts, and this precipitates the family’s headlong downward spiral of melodramatic complications resulting in a tragic denouement worthy of the Greeks. Gripping from start to finish, Lumet’s film is a model of controlled suspense narrative leading to cathartic climax and long reflection.

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