Review: Part family drama, part crime saga, ‘The Devil You Know’ struggles to find its way

Sitting with a contemplative expression, actor Omar Epps portrays a recovering addict in a scene from 'The Devil You Know.'
Recovering addict and ex-con Marcus Cowans (Omar Epps) struggles to get a fresh start in “The Devil You Know.”

While it does put an interesting spin on the phrase from which it takes its title, the family drama with crime elements “The Devil You Know” stumbles.

Written and directed by Charles Murray, the film stars Omar Epps as Marcus, a recovering addict and ex-con determined to get his life back on track. He has a supportive family with three grown brothers and is falling for a sweet new lady (Erica Tazel). When brother Drew (William Catlett) looks as if he may be getting involved in something dangerous, Marcus makes a bold move to try to protect him. His actions have wide-ranging consequences.

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“Devil” plays more as a drama than a crime film, with the brothers in particular establishing strong chemistry. The budding romance is easy to root for. The mayhem is kept to a minimum.

Unfortunately, the whole movie tends to sag. Where it could be pulled taut, scenes and even shots feel too long. As a result, though it’s under two hours, it feels longer. The tension never builds enough to keep momentum going. And one character’s actions to cover up a crime on someone’s behalf will have some viewers shouting, “But that makes it so much worse!”

One also wishes Marcus’ struggles with sobriety were more explored (it’s a key element but doesn’t feel experienced), and some character turns feel abrupt. Sadly, both the climax and the actual ending feel stopped short, rushed.


While the dramatic focus is a welcome change for the genre, some tightening and trimming would have made for a better “The Devil You Know.”

'The Devil You Know'

Rated: R for language throughout, some violence and sexual references
Running time: 1 hour, 56 minutes
Playing: In wide release