Friday, June 13, 2008

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a conniving addict, Ethan Hawke is a walking nervous breakdown, and Marisa Tomei is a naked person in this quite lengthy "dramaction". In the film, two brothers plan to rob their parents' jewelry store in order to solve their money problems, but alas, they mess it all up. And we have to watch the mess over and over again.
I have to admit, the first 6 hours of this movie were pretty good… but the last 10 were awful. I keep thinking of that line from The Jerk, where Navin says, "I know we've only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days." The movie is only two hours, but feels like a million.
I was okay with the beginning lasting so long. We're talking character development, interesting flashbacks, intense dramatic tension, and Marisa Tomei topless for a majority of the time. "I really like this movie," I said out loud. However, the second half took nine weeks and five days to end. I think I could have watched the entire Star Trek* series in the same amount of time and I'm quite sure I would have enjoyed myself more.
Don't get me wrong, I love me a good long movie - when it needs to be long. But if you can cram your story into a 90-minute timeslot, do it - especially if your movie is boring. I think Before the Devil Knows You're Dead should have been 15 minutes. If I did the math correctly, 15 minutes would have seemed like 90. Perfect.
Let me jump back and explain one of the major themes of the movie. We have a traditional crime story, but its parts are out of order. We see the end before the beginning - similar to Pulp Fiction. After we see each piece of the story, we flash back and witness the same story from other characters' perspectives until we have a good understanding of how each major character relates. Cool right? Like I said, the first half was cool, but then we begin to flashback into the lives of the minor characters. Maybe I'm on my own here but I really don't care what the neighbor's dog thought about Hoffman's pasty white ass. Of course it didn't care; it just wants a cookie. That doesn't really happen, but you get my drift. We see a lot of perspectives that don't really matter.
I do think the actors played their roles fairly well. That's a positive. Both Hoffman and Hawke were great as neurotic losers. I actually felt sorry for Hawke and the sour relationship he had with his daughter. But after a while I grew bored of that and tried to remember the other movies I liked him in. Remember Explorers? Good movie. Marisa Tomei just played a woman. But hats off to her… or should I say clothes off… nice.
The movie ends, eventually. And even though I was a little groggy from my nap, I started to get into the adventure again. The action started to pick up, tensions were mounting, and without giving too much away, I was impressed with the Shakespearean tragedy of it all. Maybe that gives too much away. C'est la vie.
But, of course, they made a huge mistake. They forgot about a character. Hawke runs away and… nothing. I realize that some writers assume they've written enough and they assume their audience is clever enough to figure out what happens. I really tolerate most open endings. I'm usually satisfied with my own interpretation of what happens. But what happened here? I can't think of anything plausible. Did Hawke build a spaceship with River Phoenix and blast off into space to find a crazy cartoon-obsessed alien? I don't think the writer intended for there to be such an open ending. I think he just wanted a cookie and forgot to finish the script.
Anyway this movie was so dull and felt so long that I died while watching it. And because it went on long after my demise, the Devil eventually found out.
*Star Trek is stupid.

2 Devils

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