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Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a 2007 crime-drama-thriller film written by Kelly Masterson and directed by Sidney Lumet. It stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, and Albert Finney. The title comes from the Irishmarker saying: "May you be in heaven a full half hour before the devil knows you're dead." The film is told in non-linear time, repeatedly going back and forth in time. Some scenes are shown from various points of view.


Note: The story is explained here in its chronological order, rather than the way it unfolds in the film.

Andy Hanson, is a finance executive who, facing an upcoming audit, is in desperate need of money to cover funds he embezzled from his employer. His brother Hank, needs money to pay child support or his ex-wife will cut him out of his daughter's life. Andy devises a plan to rob their parents' jewelry store, which Hank reluctantly agrees to. Andy argues that he cannot go himself because he has been in the neighborhood recently, and could therefore be recognized. They assume that only Doris, an elderly woman who works for their parents, will be in the store. Andy states that only a toy gun is needed and that it is a victimless crime, because insurance will repay their parents for the stolen items.

Without consulting Andy, Hank hires Bobby Lasorda, an acquaintance who is an experienced thief, to help him in the robbery. Bobby decides he will commit the robbery himself using a gun; Hank just needs to wait in the car. The brothers' mother Nanette happens to be in the store herself filling in for Doris. The robbery goes awry when Nanette pulls a hidden gun on Bobby, causing a shootout. Hank flees the scene after seeing Bobby shot to death. Nanette enters a vegetative state, dying a week later in the hospital after her husband Charles agrees to take her off life support. Charles, unsatisfied with the police's help, decides to investigate on his own, and becomes obsessed with finding the other criminal.

Hank finds himself fixing his problems while Andy only chastises him for the botched robbery. After removing evidence he had left in the rented car he used for the robbery, Hank is confronted by Bobby's brother-in-law Dex who demands financial compensation for Bobby's death to provide for his sister, Chris, Bobby's widow.

Hank has secretly been having an affair with Andy's wife, Gina, who has been unsatisfied with her relationship to Andy. Gina reveals this to Andy at the point of leaving him. Upon hearing of Dex's blackmail, Andy decides to fix the situation with Hank by robbing Andy's drug dealer. Once at the dealer's apartment, they overpower the dealer and steal his money. Hank is then shocked when Andy murders the dealer and a client who happened to be present. The brothers then go to pay off Dex, but Andy impulsively kills him for fear of blackmailing them further. Andy appears ready to kill Chris when Hank objects, warning Andy that he will have to kill Hank before Hank will let him kill Chris. Andy turns the gun on Hank, revealing that he knows about Hank and Gina's relationship. Before Andy can pull the trigger, Chris shoots him with her brother's gun. Hank leaves his brother and some of the money before fleeing.

Charles had been following his sons, having discovered that Andy was involved in the robbery. Andy is moved to a hospital where Charles visits him. Andy feebly apologizes to his estranged father for everything, explaining Nanette's death to be an accident. Charles accepts his apology. Charles then attaches Andy's heart monitor to himself, before proceeding to suffocate his son with a pillow, killing him. As medical staff rush to Andy's aid, Charles leaves.



Lumet made the decision to shoot Before the Devil Knows You're Dead on high definition video after experimenting with the format on the television series 100 Centre Street. At a press conference at the 2007 New York Film Festival, Lumet called shooting on film "a pain in the ass," and predicted that as soon as distributors and exhibitors could agree on a digital projection format, photographic film would be rendered obsolete. Filming of the primary robbery scene in the film took place at the Bay Terrace Shopping Center in Baysidemarker in Queensmarker, New Yorkmarker.

The scenes where Andy Hanson (Philip Seymour Hoffman) uses heroin were filmed in an apartment on a high floor on the southwest corner of Trump World Tower Building. This can be deduced from the location and angle of the Chrysler Building and the Empire State building seen through the window.


The film premiered on September 6, 2007 at the Deauville Festival of American Cinema in France. It was also shown at the Toronto International Film Festivalmarker on September 13, 2007. It opened in France on September 26, 2007. The film was shown October 12, 2007 at the New York Film Festival

Critical reception

The film received very positive reviews from critics. As of January 18, 2008 on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 88% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 135 reviews. On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 84 out of 100, based on 36 reviews.

Time magazine's Richard Schickel named the film one of the top 10 films of 2007, ranking it at #3, saying "At one level the movie is a wonderfully intricate exploration of family dysfunction. At another, it's a coolly controlled examination of increasingly insane criminal ineptitude. Either way you look at it, this is a hypnotizing film from one of our great masters." Roger Ebert gave the film four stars, calling it "superb" and its director, Sidney Lumet, a "Living Treasure."

Top 10 lists
The film appeared on many critics' top 10 lists of the best films of 2007.

Box office

The film opened in limited release in the United States on October 26, 2007 in two theaters, grossing $73,837 in its opening weekend. In total, the film grossed over $25 million worldwide.

Home media

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 15, 2008.


  1. "NYFF 2007: Sidney Lumet Joins the Death of Celluloid Brigade"
  2. Bay Terrace Shopping Center retrieved on May 03, 2008
  3. Retrieved 2007-10-30
  4. Schickel, Richard; "The 10 Best Movies";
  5. :: :: Reviews :: Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (xhtml)

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