At the age of 83, director Sidney Lumet proves he still has plenty of juice. And once again, Philip Seymour Hoffman proves he is one of the finest American actors working today. This powerful one-two punch nails this movie into your head; and that's further guaranteed by, a) great acting by the rest of the cast, including Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei and, in a bravura performance, Albert Finney, and b) a shockingly dark portrait of a family so dysfunctional it almost makes the Texas Chainsaw Massacre folks look tame. Well, almost.
Two brothers, played by Hawke and Hoffman, work in the same real estate company, but are hugely different. Hoffman's the bigshot; Hawke's not. Hawke's divorced; Hoffman's married to Tomei and the opening graphic scene shows just how married the two of them are. Hoffman's got problems and so does Hawke, but they're different problems, although both have their root in money.
Money drives this sucker and leads to greed, murder, despair, fear, and retribution. This is one of the darkest of noir tales in a long while; it's a noir family drama that's so unrelenting your chin drops further and further as the movie progresses and by the whopper of a tragic ending, it's definitely on the sidewalk.
But this is what makes it so compelling. It's astonishingly powerful; fundamentally, you can't believe how things can spiral so much out of control the way they do in this movie, but they do, they definitely do.
Hawke and Hoffman both needing money leads to a plan to get said money, and, of course--this being a noir film at its blackest heart--to get it completely illegally. Watch this movie to see how noir is REALLY done today, in the 21st century. As another critic pointed out, it's not so much that these guys are criminals, but that they are essentially average guys with some smarts who are in real jams and who take what looks like an easy way out to remove those jams...meaning that these guys could be you or me.
This is a real kick in the teeth movie. Serious punch, powerful acting, a director with real chops at the age of 83, and one you won't forget for a LONG time.