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'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead'

Family matters — and matters big time — in the latest crime-gone-wrong melodrama from Sidney (Dog Day Afternoon) Lumet.

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke play brothers who plot what they imagine will be the victimless heist of a well-insured jewelry store run by their parents (Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris). This family being dysfunctional, though, things inevitably go awry, and Lumet piles up the missteps. And then the bodies.

The plot would seem downright Shakespearean were kings involved, rather than suburban shlubs, and if not for the tawdriness of the crime. Happily, although the milieu is crass, Lumet's cast of theater veterans (virtually everyone with a speaking part has been nominated for a Tony Award) exudes class. Each of them is superb in a pressure-cooker story where urgency is everything.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.