- No Country for Old Men; Does anyone remember anyone beyond Javier Bardem and his dead eyed, bowl-cutted psychopath?
- Raising Arizona; Infant thievery aside, Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter make a lovely and entertaining couple. Furthermore their obnoxious houseguests are oddly enchanting.
- Miller’s Crossing; Gabriel Byrne’s supercool Tommy, the sweaty and elastic lipped Leo, the incorrigible Leo, the opportunistic Verna. The Dane! (Just a cool gangster name really.)
In all cases explaining the premise beyond one central thought becomes hard, because at the core that premise only exists to have the characters pop in and do their thing.
On the other hand, Intolerable Cruelty was about very unlikable and bland characters (played by the unlikable Catherine Zeta-Jones and the normally likable – but greasy – George Clooney). You don’t like the characters, there’s every chance you won’t like the film.
Ditto Burn After Reading. Which I redubbed Gouge Eyes After Watching.
So onto the Coen’s first effort Blood Simple. Here the characters are quite well drawn but hardly ‘popping’, which for mine pretty much sums up the film. Sure the plot is better developed than the latter films, undoubtedly because the Coens quickly realised that where the bang for buck emanated from.
Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) is a small town bar-owner who fears that his wife is cheating on him. Marty’s wife Abby (Frances McDormand) is worried that husband Marty will find out that she is cheating on him. Ray (John Getz) is happily banging Abby, and wants her to leave her bum of a husband.
What starts as a case of infidelity is escalated by disrespect. Once sufficient facts are known to each of the trio, they each start to devise their own plans to either extricate themselves – or others – from the situation, ideally so the remaining parties can benefit and go on about their business. Unfortunately no-one has possession of the entire story, so no-one is in a position to see just how labyrinthine and convoluted the scenario has developed into.
As infidelity became disrespect which in turn became anger, mistrust leads to paranoia leads to panic which leads to bodies. Plural.
Blood Simple is clever and black in equal proportions. The story remains believable enough to permit you to worry about repercussions, even when they are the result of occasional baffling decisions. I mean didn’t anyone think to casually mention life changing events to their loved ones in the early 80s?!?
“I’m thinking of killing someone honey.”
“That’s nice dear. Change the channel, Mork and Mindy starts in a minute.”
“Oh that Robin Williams is a one trick pony. He’ll vanish as fast as Pauly Shore… a guy who isn’t even remotely famous yet.”
Random diversions aside, Blood Simple is a nice little dramatic thriller with some decent moments. Just not enough to demand that you drop everything and track it down.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. If I was to ever do a Coen Brothers ‘Good, (not) Bad and the Ugly’ list, this would be the poster child for the (not) Bad section.