Before the Devil Knows You're Dead opens with an unflatteringly naked Andy Hanson (Philip Seymour Hoffman) conjugally conjoined with his far more flatteringly naked wife, Gina (Marisa Tomei). They are in Rio, they are in bed, and they are, for the moment at least, in love. Hearts may not be entertaining June, and an amber moon is nowhere in evidence, but Brazil has nonetheless worked its magic on their unhappy lives and marriage. As Gina elegantly puts it, "I don't feel like such a fuck-up when I'm here." Andy assures her that they'll come back again. "We have enough money," he promises, "to stay here for the rest of our lives."
It's a terrible lie. Though Andy makes six figures as an accountant at a large New York real estate firm, an appreciable portion of the salary goes up his nose or into his arm. Factor in the stylish apartment he and Gina share, and it's little wonder that he has taken to skimming off the company payroll.
As luck would have it, Andy's younger brother, Hank (Ethan Hawke), has financial troubles of his own, albeit of a more mundane sort: child support owed to his bitter ex-wife (Amy Ryan), private school tuition for his teenage daughter, and what appears to be a considerable liquor bill at a bar called Mooney's. So Andy, who's always imagined himself the smart brother, makes a proposal to Hank, who's always known he was the stupid one: "There's a place we can knock off. Like the back of our hand. Easiest money we'll ever make." It's a Mom-and-Pop jewelry store; the take should be large enough to solve all their money problems. And the reason it will be so easy is that it's their Mom and Pop's Mom-and-Pop jewelry store, and they're intimately familiar with its routines and safeguards.