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Film / Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

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"May you be in heaven a full half-hour before the devil knows you're dead."
Irish proverb

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a 2007 Crime Drama directed by Sidney Lumet in his last film, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, Albert Finney, Rosemary Harris, and Amy Ryan, scored by Carter Burwell.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Alliterative Name: Hank Hanson.
  • Anachronic Order: The film portrays its chronological events in order of sequential, unraveling reveals after the robbery.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Dex might be a menacing bully towards Hank, but, when all is said and done, he's looking out for his sister.
  • Blackmail: Dex threatens to either kill Hank or go to the cops if Hank doesn't provide financial support for his sister Chris, now widowed because of Bobby getting shot during the robbery.
  • Cain and Abel: Andy is Cain to Hank's Abel.
  • The Dandy: Andy's drug dealer, a 20-something man who dresses and wears his hair in an effeminate style, insinuating that he's gay.
  • Disappeared Dad: Hank, of the deadbeat sort. He's three months behind in child support and fails at his promise to pay for a special school outing his daughter wants to go on, resulting in her being humiliated in front of her classmates. Sadly, unlike most examples, he actually loves his daughter, he's just incapable of providing for her.
  • Downer Ending: Andy and Hank's mother is dead, Andy murders three people, Charles smothers Andy to death with a pillow, and everybody who's still alive is facing a bleak, meaningless existence for the rest of their lives.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Hank is the epitome of a spineless wimp, but he refuses to let Andy kill Chris, especially when he hears her baby crying.
  • Extreme Doormat: To say that Hank's a pushover would be an understatement.
  • Face Death with Dignity: At one point during their disastrous escape attempt, Hank is about to let Andy shoot him dead. But then Chris shoots Andy from behind.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Andy's plan to rob his parent's jewellery store, trusting them to collect insurance afterwards so that, essentially, they lose nothing falters because, firstly, he doesn't consider the possibility of Hank (the one he tasks to perform the crime) requesting help from a fourth party; secondly, he doesn't expect Hank to involve a gun (neither does Hank - it's introduced by the fourth party); and, thirdly, he doesn't anticipate his mother to retaliate.
    • Actually, he doesn't expect his mother to even be there. His parents' elderly employee Doris was supposed to be working that day.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: The events transition via strobing and accelerating back-and-forth cuts of the current scene with the upcoming one.
  • Idiot Ball: Andy trusting Hank to handle the robbery, given what a screw-up he clearly is, and Hank bringing in someone else kicks off the downfall of the plot.
  • Informed Ability: Bobby is supposedly an experienced thief, but he does a crappy job during the robbery and gets shot by Nanette.
  • Ironic Echo: Andy being shot by Bobby's widow while threatening to shoot Hank is similar to the beginning where Bobby is shot by Nanette during the robbery.
  • Jerkass: Deconstructed: all the main cast (excluding Nanette) qualify, but each is given a scene in which their despicability is explained as stemming from very natural, existential concerns.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Andy kills Dex after truthfully deducing that he would have never stopped harassing him and Hank for money. And as cited above, nearly everyone, as bad as they are, says something completely valid at some point
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Occasionally, Albert Finney's British accent shines.
  • Parental Favoritism: At Nanette's (Hank and Andy's mother's) funeral, Charles tries to apologize to Andy for preferring Hank because he didn't want the former to end up like him.
  • Pet the Dog: After all the chaos at Chris' place, Hank hands her a wad of money.
  • Plethora of Mistakes: It's all contained within the first event portrayed - the robbery that completely, utterly, and spitefully misfired.
  • Run for the Border: Andy plans to go to Brazil to escape prosecution for stealing from his business.
  • R-Rated Opening: The opening shot is a sex scene between Marisa Tomei and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
  • Shout-Out: "Did you touch anything?" "I don't think so." "You don't THINK SO?" very closely echoes a similar conversation in Lumet's Family Business.
  • Siblings in Crime: Andy schemes the crime, but Hank performs it, as Andy fears he might be recognized.
  • Sickbed Slaying: Andy dies this way at Charles' hands.
  • A Simple Plan: Robbing your parent's store, attended by a harmless elderly woman. A victim-less crime because insurance will fully compensate their parents for the stolen items.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: It's about as far from idealism as you can get and still be considered realist.
  • Stealing from the Till: Andy sets everything in motion because he faces an upcoming audit that will reveal his having embezzled from his employer to fund a heroin addiction.
  • Tragedy: With Andy as the protagonist and Hank as the deuteragonist, their tragedies unfold accordingly: Andy - who plotted and instigated the robbery and coerced Hank - is murdered for the death of Nanette by Charles, while Hank - who, while attempting to cope with his guilt, contemplated over-dosing - escapes the final crime scene with most of the money to an unknown future.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Man, if Hank had only stuck to the plan....
  • Tragic Mistake: In the overall scheme of things, it's the robbery and, within that, bringing in Bobby Lasorda to do the actual robbery.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Andy and Gina. Strangely, she's the Insecure Love Interest in need of his assurance that he loves her. And with good reason, as he's so pre-occupied with his problems that he's completely oblivious to how unhappy she is, and that she's having an affair with Hank.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Andy performs this within his car next to Gina, openly, angrily, and tumultuously declaring his animosity, bitterness, pain, and grief towards Charles in a heated display. Gina initially attempts to calm him, then she scolds him.
  • The Villain Knows Where You Live: Dex subtly demonstrates this when he takes Hank's driver's license.
  • Villain Protagonist: Andy and Hank qualify, with Andy as the instigator and Hank as the executor of the robbery.
  • Vorpal Pillow: Charles performs this on Andy.