AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Director: Sidney Lumet (Dir)
Release Date:   2007
Duration (in mins):  116-117 or 123
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Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman  (Andy [Hanson])
  Ethan Hawke  (Hank [Hanson])
  Albert Finney  (Charles [Hanson])
 

Summary: After a satisfying round of lovemaking in a Rio de Janeiro hotel room, New Yorkers Andy and Gina Hanson discuss their crumbling marriage and wonder why their sex life is so much better in Brazil. When Gina becomes excited at the prospect of moving to Brazil, Andy promises to think about ways to make the change happen. Sometime later, at a small suburban American shopping center, a masked man enters a jewelry store moments after it opens. Brandishing a handgun, the man orders the matronly store employee into a corner and begins to load a bag with cash and jewels. As the robber turns to smash open the diamond case, the woman grabs a gun hidden in a drawer and shoots him in the back. From the floor, the wounded robber shoots the woman, who returns fire, killing the intruder as he is fleeing. Outside in a waiting car, a young man in a wig and glasses panics at the robbery’s outcome and speeds away. Three days before the robbery, the young man, Andy’s brother Hank, fights with his angry ex-wife Martha about their daughter Danielle and the months of child support money he owes. That night at Mooney’s bar, the smooth-talking Andy suggests to Hank that his financial woes would be over if he participated in a victimless robbery that would net them $60,000 each. Hank nervously asks for details, but Andy, who constantly talks down to his brother, refuses to divulge specifics until Hank commits fully to the plan. The next day, during their weekly afternoon tryst, Hank tells sister-in-law Gina that he wants more out of their relationship than illicit sex. Citing his lack of money and prospects, Gina gently dismisses Hank’s dream of togetherness. Later, Hank proudly watches Danielle perform in a school play and, when pressed, agrees to buy her tickets to an expensive Broadway show. Hank, who works as a low-level property manager for the same Manhattan real estate company as payroll chief Andy, meets his brother in his office the following day and announces he wants in on the robbery. When Andy informs Hank that he will be robbing their parents’ Westchester jewelry store, however, Hank balks, even though Andy assures him their parents’ insurance will cover any losses and Doris, their elderly clerk, will be manning the store that morning. Finally, after Andy gives him a $2,000 advance using money embezzled from his employer, Hank agrees to commit the robbery. Hank then enlists friend Bobby Lasorda, who works at Mooney’s, to participate in the crime. Early the next morning after renting a car, Hank picks up Bobby at the apartment he shares with girl friend Chris and their baby and, on the way to Westchester, stops to don a wig, moustache and glasses. An experienced criminal, Bobby laughs at Hank’s disguise and, revealing he has brought a gun, insists that he will rob the store while Hank waits in the car. As Hank pulls into the shopping center, his view of his parents’ store is blocked by a delivery truck, and he cannot see who is opening the store. Moments later, he hears three shots fired and, seeing Bobby fall through the door, peels out of the parking lot, crying and cursing. Once safely away, Hank calls Andy from a public phone, telling him that everything has gone horribly wrong. Four days before, at his office, the cocaine-sniffing Andy learns that his personal bank account is overdrawn and that an auditor will be examining his payroll books that coming Monday. Quietly, Andy removes money from the company’s cash box and heads to an upscale apartment building, where effeminate drug dealer Andre injects him with heroin. Andy tells the unsympathetic Andre that, unlike his payroll accounts, nothing in his life “adds up” or connects to anything else. Later, at his chic apartment, after yet another unsuccessful attempt at lovemaking, Andy suggests to Gina that they may be able to move to Brazil. Although unaware of Andy's plans, Gina, who, like Andy, knows that Brazil has no extradition agreement with the United States, becomes excited to think that Andy might be plotting. The next day, Andy goes to see William, an old jeweler and reputed fence, and, without revealing any details of his scheme, gives the man his calling card. In his office, Andy then discusses his plans with Hank. Andy claims that because he is known at the shopping center, he cannot participate in the robbery himself and convinces Hank to commit the crime using a toy gun. The day after receiving the frantic post-robbery call from Hank, Andy joins his brother at a Westchester hospital, where they are stunned to learn that their mother Nanette, not Doris, was shot during the robbery. Without revealing their guilt, Andy and Hank comfort their father Charles in the hospital waiting room. The morning before the robbery, Charles studies for the next day’s driver’s license test and agrees to drop Nanette, who will be filling in for Doris, at the jewelry store beforehand. After passing his renewal test, Charles drives to the shopping center and learns about the robbery. Later, at the hospital, Charles tearfully tells the comatose Nanette, who is on life support, that he loves her. The next day, Charles reads about Bobby in the newspaper and wonders aloud why a thief from Brooklyn would rob a small store in Westchester. At the police station, Charles waits in vain to speak with a detective and, frustrated by the police’s seeming indifference, deliberately backs his car into a parked cruiser before driving away. Later, after a final visit with Nanette, Charles announces his decision to take her off life support and “let her go.” When the guilt-ridden Hank bolts from his mother’s wake, Charles declares to Andy that Hank has “always been a baby.” A few days before, immediately following the robbery, Hank wipes his prints off the rental car, returns the car to the dealer and gets drunk at Mooney’s. There, Hank is grilled by a furious Andy, who asks rhetorically why their mother had to be shot instead of their father. Hanks insists he left nothing behind in the rental car, but back at his dingy apartment, discovers a phone message from the rental agency informing him about a “personal item” found in the car. Realizing that the item is one of Bobby’s music CDs, Hank, fighting hysteria, tries to retrieve it from the agency the next day. Unsuccessful, Hank returns to Mooney’s, where he is accosted by Bobby’s girl friend Chris and Chris’s menacing brother Dex. Aware of Hank’s involvement in Bobby’s death, Dex threatens to expose him to the police unless he pays $10,000 to help care for Chris’s now fatherless child. After Martha laughingly refuses to lend him any money, Hank briefly contemplates overdosing on pills. At his mother’s wake, Hank departs abruptly and tries to contact Gina, who brushes him off. Hank then retrieves Bobby’s CD from the rental agency and reluctantly takes a call from Andy. Soon after the robbery, while his mother lies dying, Andy dodges anxious calls from a co-worker about his upcoming audit and pays an unscheduled visit to Andre, who angrily makes him wait for his heroin fix. Then, at Mooney’s, Andy berates Hank for involving Bobby in the robbery and not taking care of business. Later, as Nanette’s wake winds down, Charles apologizes to Andy for being a “bad father,” but unmoved, Andy accuses Charles of always favoring the more attractive but weak Hank. When Andy bitterly asks Charles if he is sure he is his son, Charles slaps him. On the drive home, Andy breaks down and rails against his family, frightening Gina with the intensity of his emotions. That evening, Andy again stops by Andre’s apartment unannounced but is turned away. Upon returning to his apartment, Andy is greeted by a grim Gina, who announces she is leaving him. Andy says nothing to dissuade her from going, and at the door, she informs him about her affair with Hank. Andy barely reacts to the admission but once alone, wrecks the apartment in frustration. Acting on a hunch, Charles, meanwhile, visits jeweler William, an old acquaintance. William bristles at Charles’ suggestion that he has always been a crook and spitefully shows him Andy’s calling card, noting that “the world is an evil place.” Stunned, Charles waits in his car outside Andy’s apartment, unaware that Gina has left him. Charles then follows Andy, who has learned about Dex’s demands, to Hank’s apartment. After Andy orders Hank to arrange a meeting with Dex at Chris’s apartment, Charles follows both brothers to Andre’s apartment building. There, in front of Hank, an armed Andy shoots and kills Andre and his dozing heroin customer, then grabs Andre’s stash of money and drugs. Trailed by Charles, the brothers head for Chris’s apartment, where Andy coldly shoots Dex. When Andy threatens to kill Chris, too, Hank protests, and Andy turns the gun on his brother, revealing that he knows about Hank’s affair with Gina. Seeing his brother’s rage, Hank begs Andy to kill him, but before Andy can fire his weapon, Chris snatches a gun that Dex had hidden in a pizza box and shoots Andy. Outside, as a helpless Charles watches, Hank runs from the building, still carrying Andre’s cash and drugs. That night Charles visits the wounded Andy in the hospital and listens quietly as Andy finally confesses his crimes. Charles assures Andy that all will be fine but, as soon as his son falls asleep, places the electrodes from Andy’s heart monitor on his own chest and smothers Andy to death with a pillow. Feigning alarm, Charles calls for help and, as a crash cart is rushed into Andy’s room, calmly heads for the exit.  

Distribution Company: THINKFilm
Production Company: Unity Productions
Linsefilm, Ltd.
Funky Buddha Group
Capitol Films
Director: Sidney Lumet (Dir)
  Joseph Reidy (1st asst dir)
  Amy Lauritsen (2d asst dir)
  John Silvestri (2d 2d asst dir)
  Marissa Kaplan (DGA trainee)
Producer: Michael Cerenzie (Prod)
  Brian Linse (Prod)
  Paul Parmar (Prod)
  William S. Gilmore (Prod)
  David Bergstein (Exec prod)
  Jane Barclay (Exec prod)
  Hannah Leader (Exec prod)
  Eli Klein (Exec prod)
  Sam Zaharis (Exec prod)
  Belle Avery (Exec prod)
  Jeffry Melnick (Exec prod)
  J. J. Hoffman (Exec prod)
  Guy Pham (Co-exec prod)
  Joel Corenman (Co-exec prod)
  Jeff G. Waxman (Co-prod)
  Austin Chick (Co-prod)
  Carol Cuddy (Line prod)
Writer: Kelly Masterson (Wrt)
  Sidney Lumet (Wrt)

Subject Major: Betrayal
  Brothers
  Fathers and sons
  Finance--Personal
  Marriage
  Murder
  Robbery
 
Subject Minor: Alimony
  Asphyxia
  Bars
  Blackmail
  Brothers and sisters
  Confession
  Disguise
  Drug dealers
  Embezzlement
  Fences (Criminal)
  Funerals
  Gunshot wounds
  Heroin
  Hospitals
  Hotels
  Infidelity
  Jewelers
  Jewelry stores
  New York City
  Police
  Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
  Sex
  Shootings
  Wakes
  Westchester (NY)

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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