Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Thoughts on the film: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Despite the hurricane-style weather, we went out to see Book of Eli Monday. It was everything I hoped it would be.

We also watched Before the Devil Knows You're Dead last night because we finally got the XBox back from the red ring of death repair and can once again watch movies instantly on Netflix.

All due respect to Sydney Lumet and writer Kelly Masterson, but that movie has some major problems. Remember Momento? Remember how genius that screenplay is? Remember how the story keeps moving forward, despite the fact that it's going backward? Yeah, this movie is not like that movie.

The story is all out of time for no reason whatsoever. When Momento moves back, in each instance we learn something we didn't know before. We move backward because our protagonist can't remember what he just did, so this way we're as baffled by events as he is.

In Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, we move backward because..... I dunno. Because it's clever? Because there wasn't enough story to fill out the movie so we had to repeat whole scenes? I have no idea. I felt kind of bad about it. Phillip Seymour Hoffman clearly busted his ass on this film, but it just wasn't worth it because I was bored.

The story opens with a robbery, and the next half of the movie shows us the events that lead to the robbery, but since we already saw the robbery we already know where all this leads. There is no new information past the revelation that the people robbing the place are the sons of the people who own it. Then it's just one guy convincing the other guy to do what we already know he'll do because we already saw the damn robbery. The second half of the movie got a little more interesting, because we're now moving forward instead of going back, and because Phillp Seymour Hoffman shoots pretty much everybody he meets. Oh, and we shift point of view sometimes. And that's the movie. There. Now you don't need to see it.

The point I'm making here is, don't be cute. If you have a really neat scenario, like a character with no short term memory who can't recall what he did ten minutes ago, cool. Run with that. We'll learn what he forgot with each new scene. But if the story is going backward and telling us nothing we don't already know, ditch your clever gimmick. I kept thinking throughout this movie how much better it would have been had it just been told chronologically so I didn't already know what was about to happen, and in fact, when it ditched the jumping through time it DID get better.

In conclusion, I don't care how famous you are, don't be clever just to be clever. We have David Lynch for the unnecessarily weird shit. We don't need any more.


  1. Lynch's films are weird with a purpose.

    But I agree with you on Before the Devil. I was unreasonably excited to see it before it came out on DVD. What a waste of great actors.

  2. I've almost watched this movie a couple of times but for some reason the logline just didn't pull me in enough to spend the time.

    Are there any redeeming qualities?


  3. Marisa Tomei gets naked a lot.

  4. Bless her heart...


  5. Yeah, I haven't seen it but if you start that way, it should have been after the robbery and when they were discussing the money.

    That way the robbery can happen later without being redundant.
    I guess they figured Marisa's tits would do the job.

    They obviously haven't read my posts on Sex in Cinema.


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