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USA 1984
Directed by
Joel Coen
97 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Blood Simple

The debut film for the Coen Brothers set in the mythic heartland of Southern America, Texas, tells of twisted love, revenge and criminal doings as crummy bar owner, Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya), hires an even crummier private detective (a memorable performance by M. Emmett Walsh to bump off his unfaithful wife (Frances McDormand, the wife of the director and to be seen in many subsequent Coen films) and her lover, Ray (John Getz), one of his bartenders.

The gruesome chain of events that follows is distinguished by the Coens' skilful writing and their trademark taste for macabre humour that would re-surface again notably in their 1996 breakthrough hit, Fargo.  Although perhaps a little too persistently laconic particularly when it comes to John Getz's Ray who seems to be on auto-pilot, and Frances McDormand's Abby who seems a little too wholesome to be mixed up in such a low-rent world, it is a cleverly economical work, stylishly photographed by Barry Sonnenfeld who contributes some nice noir visual touches.

A benchmark work in the independent film tradition, it never betrays its limited budget and although more violent than the Coens' subsequent films, it looks forward to Quentin Tarantino's bloody pop-fuelled genre work-outs and across to David Lynch's more persistent preoccupation with the darkness lurking in the American heartland.

FYI: If you like this you won't want to miss John Dahl's Red Rock West (1994)




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