Philip Seymour Hoffman
The robbery itself, which acts as the impetus for the film's second half, actually takes place within the first ten minutes. The rest of the movie is an intriguingly jumbled compilation of character segments, taking turns showing the back-story of each brother involved in the crime—robbing their parent's jewelry store—and their reasons for doing it, and then ultimately interplaying the father's perspective of the whole ordeal amongst the clusterf*ck of an aftermath. This non-chronological style isn't just thrown in as an attempt to keep the audience on their toes; it's there to aide the story. As the movie unfolds, so does the tale of this deeply flawed family relationship, and the costly results of the siblings' actions. In lesser hands it could've very easily come across as far too melodramatic, but Lumet and the cast raise the dramatic intrigue and intensity to such a level that it's always powerful and never soap-ish.
It bothers me that Philip Seymour Hoffman was granted an Academy Award nomination for CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR rather than his more affecting and impressive performance here. Likewise, Albert Finney delivers an Oscar-caliber supporting performance, always making the most of every scene he's in. Ethan Hawke isn't quite up to par with his colleagues, occasionally coming across as a little goofy, but he does manage to shine in a few sequences. Marisa Tomei does decent work as well, although she's given relatively limited screen time, and much of that is spent with her walking around naked (but good God is she terrific at that).
Hopefully BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD finds a home on DVD, because as it stands right now, it's almost criminal how little notice it's gotten.
Audio Commentary (with director Sidney Lumet and actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke): A free-flowing, insightful, engaging track. Fans should definitely give it a listen.
Directed by Sidney Lumet: How the Devil Was Made (24:00): An interview-filled look at how the film came to be and the experience working with director Sidney Lumet.