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Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

The Contenders

Release date: Oct. 26 Distributor: ThinkFilm

Quick fact: Sidney Lumet, director of “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” was born five years before there were any Oscars. So, one of awards season’s most acclaimed dramas was helmed by a guy who was around before there was such a ballpark — and has been knocking them out of the park for 50 years.

With “Devil,” Lumet tackles a multigenerational tale (scripted by Kelly Masterson) that only slyly tips its hand to the fact that it’s the eldest generation, here embodied by an aging patriarch (Albert Finney) that has the stamina and character to survive life’s daily grind.

Less endowed with fortitude and more ground up by existence (and perhaps by their father’s stoicism) are his two New York City-dwelling sons, the elder (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a smack-addicted white-collar creep and the younger (Ethan Hawke) a clueless buffoon regularly referred to as “the baby.” When the only solution to Hoffman’s financial pain appears to be boosting daddy’s jewelry store in the ‘burbs, he bullies little brother into the ill-planned heist.

An edgy portrait of a toxic family dissolving before our eyes, superb performances and seriousness of purpose may overcome the slight budget and dark, often comic turns, which history has told us can turn Oscar off. But history also tells us that Lumet’s a seasoned pro with Oscar noms and an honorary Oscar to boot, and a player whose fastball, as evidenced by “Devil,” can still take your head off.

See photos, trailer and more on ‘Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead’

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