By Michael Sauter
Updated October 27, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

First, a shoot-out in a coffee shop kills several innocent bystanders. Then, the needlessly gimmicky film The Life Before This flashes back a few hours to reconstruct — or rather, revise — the events leading up to the tragedy. Not content to contemplate the fateful intersection of lives, the filmmakers tinker with their characters’ destinies, adding little ”What if?” twists that result in a different, but equally arbitrary, outcome; an anticlimactic cosmic shrug. C+