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When the Devil You Know Turns Out to be Family

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, a robbery thriller directed by Sidney Lumet, is perfectly weighted and expertly crafted.

It's a crime-and-punishment story starring Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman as brothers who are desperately in debt; when Hoffman's character talks Hawke's into a scheme to alleviate the cash crunch, events go from very bad to even worse — to as grotesquely awful as possible.

Under Lumet's sympathetic direction, the brothers' anguish gets into the viewer's bloodstream, and the movie transcends melodrama.

Copyright 2022 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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David Edelstein is a film critic for New York magazine and for NPR's Fresh Air, and an occasional commentator on film for CBS Sunday Morning. He has also written film criticism for the Village Voice, The New York Post, and Rolling Stone, and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times' Arts & Leisure section.