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USA 1998
Directed by
Sam Raimi
121 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Simple Plan, A

Sam Raimi is a skilled director and the premise of his film is appealing but the problem with it, over and above its evident deficiencies compared to the Coen’s Fargo of two years earlier, is that it is so determined by the well-oiled mechanics of its plot that it lacks any purchase in the world it purports to depict,

Bill Paxton plays Minnesota family man, Hank Mitchell, who with his older brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jacob's best friend Lou (Brent Briscoe) find $4.4m in a crashed light plane. They decide to keep the money but soon things start to go very wrong.

Incredibly A Simple Plan was received with no end of critical plaudits on its release despite the fact that it fails exactly where Fargo succeeded. Where the Coens took a mildly absurdist view of an ordinary schlub getting way out of his depth and the inexorability with which his bad decisions brought him down, Raimi wants to us to accept at face value the idea that not only would a mild-mannered provincial turn into a cold-blooded murderer without the slightest apparent disturbance to his normal neighbourly demeanour but that his heavily pregnant librarian wife (Bridget Fonda) would become not only his accomplice but an active protagonist.

If the film fails as psychological realism it equally glosses over other kinds of plausibility  - despite the pretence that the Mitchells are hard up they live what appears to be a comfortable middle class lifestyle; the first murder victim dies with remarkable ease and unlike Frances McDormand’s Marge Gunderson, the local sheriff doesn’t suspect the slightest thing despite the fact that Hank has taken to hanging out with his mouth-breathing brother and his slob friend. Even when the slob and his wife are killed and Hank and Jacob are involved he still doesn’t see a problem. And so on and so on as the bodies mount up to ridiculous proportions. And perhaps most ridiculously, after it all Hank keeps baggin' feed down at the grainstore.

Briscoe makes for a engaging dufus and Billy Bob Thornton with his greasy lank hair and Brotherhood bin wardrobe is a bit of fun as the simple-minded brother Jacob but overall A Simple Plan is a black comedy without the comedy and nothing to take its place.

FYI:  Thornton went on to star in the 2014 Fargo spin-off television series.




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