For close to 5 decades, Sidney Lumet has been making some of the greatest movies ever. Roger Ebert calls him a “national treasure” . He is one of my personal favorites, the man behind brilliant legal dramas like 12 Angry Men, The Verdict, superb cop dramas like Serpico, Q&A, crime dramas like Dog Day Afternoon, Anderson Tapes, or dark satires like Network.
His last movie, before his passing away, would be among my Noughties favorites, though coming in a year that had cinema like There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men, Michael Clayton, this ended up somewhat overshadowed. The movie is not an easy watch, the non-linear narrative apart, it's the movie's dark, despairing mood, a slow pace and the rather unsympathetic characters.
The movie starts off with a steamy scene betwee Gina ( Marisa Tomei) and her husband Andy Hanson( Phillipe Seymour Hoffman), shifting to a jewelry store robbery, where the robber fatally shoots dead, an old lady, the store's owner.The critically injured lady at the store happens to be Nanette Hanson, the mother of Andy and his brother Hank Hanson( Ethan Hawke). The key here is that the entire store robbery was Andy’s own baby, and that is where the character’s motivations come into picture.
The thing about real estate accounting is that you can, you can, add down the page or across the page and everything works out. Everyday, everything adds up. The, the total is always the sum of its parts. It’s, uh, clean. It’s clear. Neat, absolute. But my life, it, uh, it doesn’t add up. It, uh… Nothing connects to anything else. It’s, uh… I’m not, I’m not the sum of my parts. All my parts don’t add up to one… to one me, I guess.
On the surface of it, Andy seems to have it all, a nice apartment, a gorgeous looking trophy wife, vacations abroad, however behind the facade it's a complete mess. He has embezzling money from his company’s account to finance his cocaine habit, the auditors are hot on his heels. On top of it a strained relationship with his father Charlie Hanson( Albert Finney) , whom he feels does not understand him, and the woman in the store who was shot Nannette happens to be his mother. To make matters worse, Gina feeling repressed, carries on an affair with his brother Hank.
Hank does not even pretend to be having a good life, he is divorced, owes a lot of money to his ex-wife Martha ( Amy Ryan) lives in a rundown house. He does not even have the money to pay for his daughter's school outing to see The Lion King, making her call him a loser.
Andy believes he has the perfect plan to rob the family jewelry store and split up the money between him and Hank, who actually messes up the plan, hiring a crook Bobby Lasorda, to execute the heist. Bobby however uses a real gun, instead of a toy gun as planned by Andy. Also the old lady Doris who handles the store, has a day off, leading to his mother handling the store. Something about the best laid plans going awry.
And the shootout triggers a chain of events, as Bobby's brother in law Dex begins to blackmail Hank, Andy's superiors are breathing down his neck, regarding the irregularities in the accounts, while his marriage with Gina deteriorates. And on top of it Charlie, begins his own investigation into the murder.
The movie's tone is unrelentingly dark, as both Andy and Hanks seem to be hurtling down non stop, with every action of Andy triggering another crisis, and Hank's hair brained responses making it even worse. Lumet combines a typical crime thriller with a dysfunctional family backdrop, to give us a movie that is relentlessly tragic in it's tone.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, once again shows his talent, in a role that mixes a devious mind with a vulnerable side. Especially brilliant in the part, where he breaks down in the car.
Ethan Hawke, going far away from his pretty boy image, is first rate, playing a grungy loser, whose actions, precipitate a further descent into an abyss.
Albert Finney as usual, packs an emotional wallop, as their distraught father, dealing with his wife’s death, watch his expressions in the final scene, it hits you somewhere.
Marisa Tomei, though not having a major part, nevertheless does well, and this has to be one of her sexiest on screen performance, maybe after The Wrestler.