Well, I hate to do it, but I have to agree with Roger Ebert on this. Seriously, if you haven't seen the movie, don't read about it. Just watch it. As for the rest of you, I offer a few of my humble observations while still trying to preserve the plot's secrets.
First of all, acting. Top-notch, of course. I guess you could say it's an actor's movie. Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman play brothers, and even though that may seem implausible they do manage to pull it off. I'm not well-versed in the Ethan Hawke catalog, but this is probably his best performance to date. Way better than Mystery Date, anyway. Philip Seymour is excellent as always; he seems to be revisiting Owning Mahowny territory, except that at least Mahowny had some likability. At one point, Hoffman's wife tells him she's been having an affair, but it's good news in comparison to everything else at that moment... And like a Coen brothers pic, it starts with the perfect crime that goes wrong, the aftershocks of which end up destroying everything and everyone in its path, everything short of turning our solar system into a black hole. As with Novocaine, appearances can be deceiving. In this case, the brother that you might think is better off might not actually be.
The story's told in semi-linear fashion, like The Limey or Jackie Brown. But I guess even Slaughterhouse-Five has a certain sense of structure to it. Maybe there's a happiness gene that the Hanson parents didn't pass on to their kids, I don't know. And I swear I thought to myself where the relationship with the drug dealer was going to end up; maybe seeing the other client in there seemed like infidelity to the one character. Well, that's the way movies are these days: you can't help but speculate. My friend whose opinion I trust had his own idea about how the dialogue between Albert Finney and the diamond fence should go; maybe if Paddy Chayefsky wrote the script. Oh well. As for you other critics who think there's too much overacting going on here (oh, they're out there; they just tend to post to other critic's websites), I think it's just that these are real people dealing with a 'real' situation. There's hardly anything Hollywood about it. That it becomes a family tragedy adds a whole other layer of stress. I did like the scenes with Michael Shannon. Compare this with Grand Theft Parsons, and you might not think it's the same guy. I guess that's about all I had. Again, don't listen to the reviewers; just see the damn movie first. Now, how many films can you say THAT about? Good on ya, Sidney. Guess this means this is your Match Point, but I will confess that I did get sucked in to Find Me Guilty, even though I didn't finish it...
-so sayeth the Movie Hooligan