Before the Devil Knows Youre Dead


Legendary American filmmaker Sidney Lumet passed away today of lymphoma at the age of 86. Lumet has had a long and distinguished career directing films and television. Perhaps what’s most remarkable about Lumet’s filmography is that he made good movies in nearly every single decade that he worked, and the time between his first film and his last film was exactly fifty years (1957-2007). Lumet, in short, embodied American film history from the 1950s to now. Lumet started out as a child actor on Broadway. After returning from service in WWII, he started directing television programs like Playhouse 90 and Studio One, before making a television version of the play 12 Angry Men before turning it into his first feature film in 1957. Much of Lumet’s career can perhaps be characterized as a series of firsts. For example, his film The Pawnbroker (1964) was the first studio film to seriously deal with traumatic memories of the Holocaust and with Jewish guilt, as well as the first to have significant frontal nudity. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) was one of the first studio films with an open homosexual as its main character. Lumet was known for challenging censorship and pushing boundaries throughout much of his career.


Sidney Lumet

Sidney Lumet was a master moviemaker in every sense of the word. Take a look at your all-time top ten, and he’s mostly likely got at least one spot on it. Serpico, Network (my personal #2), Dog Day Afternoon, Long Day’s Journey Into Night and a list that continues (and logic-defyingly includes The Wiz) until the paper runs out. Maybe you’d like to experience more movies by the man, or maybe you’d like to introduce yourself to him after his unfortunate passing. Maybe your goal is to post up on the couch and watch Lumet movies all day. Well, you can, and we’ll be right there with you. Here are just 7 of his movies that you can watch immediately through Netflix.


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After at least a decade, if not much more, of lackluster films from Sidney Lumet, the fading titan has strikingly returned to form with a fiery, blustering crash. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is easily the best-acted film of the year, but what’s more is that it’s a sharp piece of cultural criticism about late capitalism and the depths of tragedy it’s capable of producing. Nearly three-quarters of the way into the film, Marisa Tomei asks her husband, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, for car fare to her mother’s house; “I could really use some money,” she says, and she might as well be speaking for every character in the film. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is about money, pure and anything but simple: its role as America’s driving force, main object of desire and the one thing of which no one seems to have enough. Hoffman is introduced in a position of dominance, retrocopulating with his wife Tomei (it’s surprisingly graphic, despite being filmed in a non-revealing long shot), a dominance he’ll resume, though not in a porously-penetrative way, throughout the rest of the film in regards to his little brother, played by Ethan Hawke. Hoffman pushes him into a robbery he doesn’t want, nor have the brains, to commit but both, to their undoing, are in desperate need of the cash they assure themselves that they’ll score. (And Hoffman, the cokeheaded corporate exec, is too much the coward to do it himself.) Hoffman is obsessed with […]


Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is as good of a film as Sidney Lumet has ever made and that is really saying something considering he’s been at it for over half-a-century.

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published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.29.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015

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