January 10, 2008 -- This tense, gripping film about two desperate brothers slipping into a bottomless pit of crime and murder is cleverly written, brilliantly acted and put together like a fine watch. It is a Shakespearean-like tale of corruption, murder and betrayal. It starts out with a seemingly simple plan. We later find out that this jewelry heist is just the tip of an iceberg of corruption. The brothers were heading for disaster long before they made that fateful decision to rob the jewelry store.
The two brothers, Andy and Hank are played, respectively, by Philip Seymour Hoffman of “The Savages” and Ethan Hawke of “Lord of War.” Andy, who has serious financial problems, talks his weak-willed brother Hank, who also is strapped for cash, into a mad scheme to rob their parents' jewelry store. It seems like a pretty safe heist, since the brothers, who both worked at the store, know the combination to the safe and the security codes, but the heist goes terribly wrong.
Soon Hank is threatened by blackmail by a relative of the robber who was killed in the failed heist, a robber who was recruited by Hank. Andy, who has been embezzling money, is about to be found out. He needs fast cash to make up the shortfall. Hank is falling further behind on his child support payments and faces the wrath of both his daughter and ex-wife who both view him as a cash cow and little else. The brothers are running out of time and become more desperate. They resort to an even more desperate robbery and murder, all the while enduring the aftermath of their mother's (Nanette, played by Rosemary Harris of the “Spider-Man” films) death during the jewelry store heist.
The film works by revealing layers of the story in flashbacks, starting with the robbery. We see that Andy was on course for this tragic collapse long before the robbery. Hank probably would have gotten by on his own if he hadn't been talked into the heist by his brother. Hank's main problem seems to be that he wants to try to please everybody all the time. On the surface, Andy seems like a very successful man, but that is only on the surface. Underneath, his situation is very desperate. Andy's caustic relationship with his father, Charles (Albert Finney of “Amazing Grace”) is especially dramatic. Andy's relationship with his wife, Gina (Marisa Tomei of “Wild Hogs”) is also a bitter one. Andy and Gina's final scene together in the movie is memorable. Andy says, “I don't need any help.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. This film rates an A.
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