Monday, December 17, 2007

Movies: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

From its opening shot, in which Phillip Seymour Hoffman, channeling a sun-bleached beached whale, belly quivering, thumps a scrawny, bottle-tanned whore (oh wait—that's Marisa Tomei) from the back, surrounded by opulent silk sheets and mirrors (in case seeing it from one side isn't good enough for you), I could tell that this movie was going to be dreadful. I should have realized that it was also going to be painfully contrived, but for some reason, that took me a bit more time. Marisa Tomei (looking rather hot for her age, I must say) plays Phil Hoffman's wife, and yeah, she's quite the whore, because she's fucking her husband's brother, too (that would be Ethan Hawke). All of these characters have names, but the film is so transparent that it would be pointless to use them; it would also be pointless because none of these actors ever do much acting; Phil Hoffman is always a pompous asshole, Ethan Hawke is always a sweet and likable fuck-up, and Marisa Tomei is always hot; if only the story ended there and we all went home.

Instead, we have to watch Sydney Lumet go through the dramatic motions of making a movie. I am a big fan of craft, but craft can't rescue an idiotic plot, and indeed then only becomes a distraction. The idiotic plot is as follows: Ethan Hawke is a sweet and likable fuck-up (what a surprise) and can't pay his child support, so when his brother Phil Hoffman asks him to join in on the perfect robbery, he plays sucker and agrees. It's only then that he finds out that he's to rob his own parents' jewelry store, and Phil, being a pompous asshole, isn't going to come along. Hawke gets nervous and decides to bring along a loser friend to do the job; his loser friend, being a loser, brings a gun and, when things go unaccording to plan, shoots the old lady in the store, and gets shot dead by her as well. She goes into a coma. Mind you, she's the mom of Phil Hoffman and Ethan Hawke. She doesn't come out of the coma. Dad starts going crazy. Meanwhile, we find out that the reason Phil needs the money (he never told his brother or his wife or anyone) is because of his very expensive drug habit—coke and heroin (the latter which he procures from the only likable character in the whole movie: a surly homosexual pretty boy with an ultralush loft in Chelsea Heights who always answers the door wearing a kimono and holding a gun).

Now, Ethan's dead buddy's wife's thuggish brother is out to bleed him for the dough he doesn't have, he still hasn't paid his alimony, and everyone around him is losing it. We, in the audience, wish everyone would die so that the movie will end. After about fifty-seven plot twists, there are another twenty-three plot twists (mind you the film doesn't progress in linear order, and we see numerous scenes two or three times from different perspectives) and the movie does end, but not until Phil Hoffman's dad finds out that it was his own evil son who's to blame for mom's death (oh yeah, they finally took her off the life support). Dad goes to the hospital where Phil Hoffman is on same support after being shot by the dead buddy's wife after shooting her thuggish brother (Hawke gets away with the gym bag of drugs and money stolen from the pretty boy dealer whom Hoff also shot) and smothers his son with a pillow. At long last, the bloody thing is over and we get to go home.

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