Before the Devil Knows You're Dead


Universal acclaim - based on 37 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 34 out of 37
  2. Negative: 0 out of 37

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Critic Reviews

  1. 100
    The movie grabs hold and runs you through the wringer.
  2. One of the great American films of the past decade, and the crowning masterpiece of Lumet's long career.
  3. 100
    This flick is fast and ferocious, his (Sidney Lumet) sharpest and best since "Prince of the City" (1980) - and surely one of the year's finest.
  4. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Offers the rare pleasure of watching a major director return to his own material and rework it 30 years later. This story of a pitiful jewel heist gone so profoundly wrong that it approaches the scope of Greek tragedy isn't quite a remake of "Dog Day Afternoon."
  5. 100
    In addition to being a study in great acting, this is a study in great directing.
  6. 100
    A superb crime melodrama.
  7. A wicked deconstruction of a dysfunctional clan: brothers at each other's throats; a father whose legacy is anger and betrayal; an unfaithful wife; a history of deceit. It's a horror show of hatred and festering psychic wounds.
  8. Its virtues are velocity, energy, innovative storytelling - and something that seems even more the province of young directors: a certain heartlessness and ironic distance in the tone.
  9. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Compact, nasty, and altogether wonderful, a tale of brotherly greed and New York comeuppance that shows an old dog dusting off old tricks using new technology.
  10. 91
    Emotionally brutal, ferociously acted, crafted with unflagging expertise and relentlessly locked in its vision of human darkness, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is as grim and despairing as any tragedy by Sophocles or Shakespeare.
  11. His (Sidney Lumet) touch in Before the Devil is so sure, so perfectly weighted, that it’s hard to imagine him capable of making a bad movie. The thing is just enthralling.
  12. Pungently atmospheric, brilliantly textured and featuring superb performances from every performer in parts big and small.
  13. Reviewed by: Lisa Nesselson
    The wrenching tale has something for anyone who likes their melodrama spiked with palpable tension and genuine suspense.
  14. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    It is, like quite a few Lumet pictures, rather small in scale, easy to overlook. But I think it is time to gather around a director who has embraced his octogenarian bleakness and sing his praises. Ultimately, I think you'll laugh a lot at what he has wrought here -- but only well after the movie is over and the full scale of its perversity settles into your bones.
  15. This is no nostalgia trip taken by an 83-year-old director. It's a fierce, hot slap of a movie, a shameless melodrama with bite.
  16. 90
    Bleak, weirdly witty at times and unrelentingly suspenseful, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is the cinematic equivalent of a perfect storm.
  17. 89
    While the evil that men do to one another in this film may well be rooted in the Cain-like enabling of original sin from one doomed brother to another, the final familial tragedy feels exactly like classic Lumet.
  18. 88
    A dynamite film that ranks with the year's best.
  19. 88
    The true star of this nerve-racking family crime drama, shot with a minimum of fuss by Ron Fortunato, is playwright and first-time screenwriter Kelly Masterson's deft script, which carefully develops each fatally flawed character and tells their stories in achronological flashbacks that seamlessly fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
  20. Arguably Lumet's best film in 20 years.
  21. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    The action is violent, messy, and threaded through with dark humor. This is a movie for grownups, for sure, but it has a mulish kick that most such pictures consider themselves to tasteful to aspire to.
  22. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    One bad idea can unravel and ruin lives in unimaginably horrific ways.That's the concept underlying the riveting Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, a sharply acted and highly entertaining morality play.
  23. 83
    Ultimately, the film is just a smart caper picture with some good performances, but at times it's VERY smart, and Hoffman's performance in particular is one of the most natural and unexpectedly affecting that he's given in years.
  24. 80
    Furious and entertaining little morality play.
  25. 80
    Curiously exhilarating. Some of this comes from the simple thrill of witnessing something, or rather everything, done well.
  26. This is not a drama of shadings, but of ever-increasing intensity.
  27. Reviewed by: Helen O'Hara
    Bleak, brutal and quite possibly brilliant, this is a triumphant return to form for Lumet and further proof that Hoffman is on an incredible winning streak.
  28. 75
    Philip Seymour Hoffman is in fine form as a man teetering on the edge.
  29. What you’re left with, finally, is the pleasure of a wily director’s company. In much the same way John Huston defied convention and predictability in the third act of his directorial career, with films as odd and fresh as “Wise Blood” and “Prizzi’s Honor,” Lumet is doing the same, right now.
  30. This is an adrenaline-pumping, devilishly well-made thriller set against the downfall of an American family.
  31. Atmosphere is the main virtue with which this "Devil" can tempt us.
  32. 70
    The only player in this tawdry round-robin game who moved or seduced me in any way was Andy’s poor, hapless Gina. Tomei’s an ordinary beauty... But she has real screen presence and range, and her neglected wife is an artful inversion of her Oscar-winning role as Danny DeVito’s pert squeeze in "My Cousin Vinny."
  33. 67
    The result is not a first-class film noir but a top-grade acting class. You admire it without enjoying it.
  34. 50
    The evident strengths and laudable intentions of Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (and even the appeal of Marisa Tomei in her undies) are overwhelmed by an implausible plot verging on unintentional comedy and a panoply of Noo Yawk dirt-bag supporting characters who might've seemed awkward on a 1993 episode of "NYPD Blue."
  35. Even though it's scripted by a woman (Kelly Masterson), this tale of buried family resentments rising to the surface as the brothers plot to rob their parents' jewelry store is concerned only with the guys, and it's marred by an uncharacteristically mannered performance by Albert Finney as the father.
  36. The problem is not that the director is working but that his latest film is working too hard. Way too hard – this thing is melodrama running a marathon.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 350 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 64 out of 107
  2. Negative: 25 out of 107
  1. Feb 11, 2011
    Another installment in the POV thriller, this one, packing more emotion and melodramatic "fluff" than anything seen on "General Hospital." TheAnother installment in the POV thriller, this one, packing more emotion and melodramatic "fluff" than anything seen on "General Hospital." The plot is innately simple and intriguing, but is suddenly contrived with non-linearity. On the upside, however, each scene is shot delicately, drawing great amounts of real-life feeling. Seymour delivers his usual, banal acting job, bailed out only by solid writing. The real firmness and direction is lead by Finney, whose genuinately is more than able and deserving. As for Tomei...well, what you see is what you get. Don't let me stray you from thinking any differently, the film is very well done: methodical, concise, and enlivening. The subtle undertones and suggestions are superb, the anticipation is live, the direction is vague, and the irony is delicious. The biggest quandary, though, Hollywood's obsession to aggrandize...I guess simpler isn't always better...? Full Review »
  2. PhilN
    Feb 20, 2008
    A mystifyingly overrated film. The biggest flaw - which I found completely crippling - was that it was impossible to root for any of the A mystifyingly overrated film. The biggest flaw - which I found completely crippling - was that it was impossible to root for any of the characters. Attempts to justify the two leads' actions fall short (especially when it later becomes clear an alternative was available), and as human beings they are simply despicable, exhibiting infantile selfishness and irresponsibility. Good film & TV (such as The Sopranos, There Will Be Blood) has shown us we can care deeply about monstrous people, or at least care about their fate, but this film fails to invoke any such feeling - I could have left half way through and would never have wondered about these two losers again. Furthermore, the plot is shaky and unconvincing and descends into hackneyed TV-movie gibberish toward the end. Albert Finney's character, who initially seems like the only glimmer of humanity and perhaps the movie's saving grace, unfortunately also turns into a cliche in his final - almost nonsensical - scenes. The non-linear, POV-switching storytelling is nothing more than a gimmick - nothing is revealed through these shifts, there's simply no reason for them to be there and they make the film needlessly cumbersome. The dreadful audio/visual effect that accompanies each shift is ugly and jarring, making them even more annoying. Positives: the film is nicely shot and the performances are good (but these too are overrated - the two great actors here, PSH and Finney, are coasting, nowhere near the height of their powers). The best thing is really the premise, which had potential but ultimately the film is a pointless waste of time and talent. Certainly not the worst film I've ever seen, but one I find impossible to recommend. Full Review »
  3. Jul 1, 2016
    Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is an undeniably well acted and well made film. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, andBefore the Devil Knows You're Dead is an undeniably well acted and well made film. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, and Marisa Tomei's boobs (probably the leader for screentime), all turn in great performances. The film is also a phenomenal look at a broken family led to the point of desperation to lift themselves up, but winds up tearing them apart even more. As a crime thriller, it is solid and wholly entertaining. However, the film undoes itself with its non-linear structure. Annoying and useless in this film, the non-linear storytelling distracts more than it entertains. Even worse, the way in which it is told makes no sense with it jumping all over the place with little aim. The thrills the film could have produced are killed through the same means as the film's climactic parts come far too early to actually carry any weight. After this, we are stuck watching these people we do not like come to grips with what happened and reveal more dealing with it, but since we know how it turned out, it all feels pointless because then we can assume how they will all react to the results. There is tension, merely predictability. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead presents good acting, but shoots itself in the face repeatedly with its curious use of non-linear storytelling. Full Review »