Fall 2007 is shaping up to be the season of illogical movies. First there was the much-praised Gone Baby Gone, which has a third act twist that's logically crazy and impossible in practicality, and now there's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, a film from the aging non-master Sidney Lumet that twists its narrative into a pointless and annoying timeline-pretzel and in doing so drains every ounce of energy and motivation from the piece, only to arrive at a Greek tragedy climax that has a plot hole so large you could drive a Hummer through it. (Don't worry, I won't spoil it, but I'll just say this -- cops?) That both both films contain performances by Amy Ryan may be their saving grace -- Ryan has a lock on Best Supporting Actress this year that's as tight as Ben Foster's lock on Best Supporting Actor, but that's not enough to push Before the Devil over the line. Nor is its high-grade cast, that includes Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke. Even Marisa Tomei's frequently naked breasts don't get it done.
The plot: two brothers scheme to knock over their parents' jewelry store. Mom and pop will get the insurance money, they'll get the loot, and everyone's rent gets paid. Sounds pretty simple, only -- pause for effect -- something goes wrong. What goes wrong is Rosemary Harris, who re-confirms here what she proved in the Spiderman films -- she can't act worth a lick. Harris plays the boys' mother, who unexpectedly stops the thief they send in to rob her with a handgun and also gets herself shot in the process. 'Big emotion' is not something that should ever be required of Harris, and I felt a tinge of relief when she was dispatched early on in the film -- the less screen time she takes up the better. The boys' father, played by the excellent Albert Finney, sets out to make it his mission in life to find the "guy who did this." And so it begins ... or ends ... or something. The timeline in this film is so herky-jerky that for all I know, my interpretation of its events could be completely wrong.