Marcus Cowans (Omar Epps), a recovering alcoholic, has recently been released from prison and seeks a fresh start. He comes from a steadfast family of four flat-outlined siblings who are concerned about his well-being. But it’s his brother Drew (William Catlett), unemployed, alone and hanging out with an evil mob, who’s worried.
Written and directed by Charles Murray, The Devil You Know is a grim crime and family drama that struggles to find a consistent tone. It begins with a shocking shot of three thieves infiltrating a quaint suburban house. Two occupants are killed, another is in a coma. At Drew’s apartment, Marcus discovers a book of valuable baseball cards, allegedly stolen from the destroyed house. Would his stoic brother be capable of the horrific violence that took place in the house?
Aimless and incoherent, the film brings the “no good deed” trope to Marcus. He tips the police over Drew’s shady employees. The move causes Marcus’ devoted father (Glynn Turman) to have a heart attack and his doting girlfriend (Erica Tazel) to leave him. It also leads to Joe (Michael Ealy), an annoying detective, knocking on his door.
The soft-spoken Epps is frustratingly misplaced. The montage by Geofrey Hildrew and Scott Pellet stumbles lifelessly on, and the direction lacks the necessary impulse for a storyline with more twists than a low-budget soap. The film teases a showdown between Marcus and Joe, culminating in an encounter reminiscent of Michael Mann’s “Heat.” But the slanted framing, which undermines the experienced actors, only reminds viewers of what “The Devil You Know” isn’t.
The Devil You Know
Rated R for violence and intense language. Running time: 1 hour 56 minutes. In theatres.