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Get with the Caper <i>Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead</i> …

Devil Knows You're Dead
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead; courtesy of THINKFilm

Heist Movies Gone Wild …


Greetings and salutations* film nerds …

Great Zeus’ Beard* my Halloween was a doo-hoo-hoozy …* It got so bat shit for Poppa H, the next morning I found two sticky notes on my forehead that said if two so-and-so’s store-bought pregnancy tests don’t hit double negative this week, I may finally be living up to my self-appointed nickname, and then some*… ehew poppa.

I don’t want to sound like some kind of libertine, but I’m amazed my boys could still swim after all the kicks I’ve taken to the crotch over the years—Hey-O! Ahem, but seriously, since it appears my babies’ mommas are gonna be needin’ some Huggies and whatever cash I got * in the next calendar year, I’m seriously considering 86’ing this whole bullshit writing career to foray into a full-fledged life of crime. I’m thinking like total gangster shit …

Think about it, Kingpin-ism’s got a big upside, and way more than plodding away on this blasted computer all night like a trained monkey. And if you look at the statistics, planned heists executed by desperate amateurs rarely go horribly wrong, don't they? Any of you suckers convinced yet?

Devil Knows You're Dead
courtesy of THINKFilm

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead


While I assemble my crack team of palookas, I hear the word on the street is some of you wise guys are into paying cash money to take a cinematic trip back to the mean streets of 1970’s New York to learn a few hard-boiled lessons in NY crime. Here’s a filmic tip that hits like a hot knuckle-sandwich: If you’re down with Denzel and American Gangster, double down for good measure with a screening of Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, a OGNYC tale helmed by the master of ’70s urban grit, Sidney Lumet. You can get me back on the flipside.

Devil is like a Sam Shepard-meets-David Mamet tale about two downtrodden brothers, Andy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Hank (Ethan Hawke) who are up to their necks in debt and at odds with their own depraved souls. When Hank isn’t banging Andy's wife, (Marisa Tomei), the two brothers devise a plan to hold up a mom-and-pop jewelry store. The rub is, Andy’s targeted a jewelry store that is literally owned by Andy and Hank’s mom and pop …

Devil Knows You're Dead
courtesy of THINKFilm

And so it goes down the path to hell … Hoffman’s Andy is the Devil’s standout, by far, the most depraved beautiful loser in the bunch. A repulsive liar, bully and cheat, Hoffman creates a morally corrupt character that we somehow still love, sweaty failure and all. In addition to the top-shelf acting, every scene in screenwriter Kelly Masterson’s script crackles and pops with enough black tar comedy and modern Greek tragedy to fill two narratives with stone-faced liars, losers, killers and thieves. And like Pulp Fiction, the narrative Tarantinos back and forth, ping-ponging through time to show the botched caper from multiple perspectives.

If you’re into “crime cinema,” Devil is a gritty love letter from a cold-blooded legend who, at 83, is still making pictures like a young man. With a moral sharpness and frenetic energy, Lumet’s Devil should inspire today’s young turks to take notes while bowing down to the master while the old man’s still kicking. 

Devil Knows You're Dead
courtesy of THINKFilm

One of the year's best, Devil will knock you out … As for Big Poppa, I’m praying the Devil’s Business doesn’t knock me out of the game with a seismic sucker punch … or two. Until next week, be bad and stay the hell out of trouble baby…* MRF

Sidney Lumet DVD Picks to Click
•    Network (1976)
•    Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
•    Serpico (1973)
•    The Verdict (1982)

Caper Movies Gone Wrong
•    Quick Change (1990) Dir. Franklin & Murray
•    Jackie Brown (1997) Dir. Tarantino
•    The Grifters (1990) Dir. Frears
•    Heat (1995) Dir. Mann
•    Out of Sight (1998) Dir. Soderbergh
•    True Romance (1993) Dir. Tony Scott

Volume 38 Footnotes
•    “Greetings and salutations.” – Heathers (1991): Christian Slater doing his best Nicholson impersonation to a monacle-lovin’ Winona Ryder
•    “Great Zeus’ Beard,” – Anchorman (2003): Ron Burgundy pays homage to Bob Goulet’s penchant for hyperbole in the Will Ferrell classic.
•    “Watch out for that first step, it’s a doo-hoo-hoozy.” – Groundhog Day (1993): Stephen Tobolowsky to soggy-loafered weatherman Bill Murray.
•    “And then some …” – Bachelor Party (1983): Nick the Dick impresses bosom buddies, Tom Hanks and Adrian Zmed with his foot long hot dog.
•     “I’ll be takin’ these Huggies and whatever cash you got.” – Raising Arizona (1987) Dir. Coens – Repeat offender, H.I. McDunnough to a Juggs Magazine reading, pistol toting convenience store clerk.
•    “Let’s get into trouble baby.” – Tapeheads (1988): Soul Train host Don Cornelius (as Hollywood Producer Mo Fuzz) to upstart filmmakers Tim Robbins and John Cusack