Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Blood Simple

Title: Blood Simple (1984)
Dir: Joel Coen
Rating: ***1/2 out of 5 stars

Blood Simple was the Coen Brothers' first feature film, but you'd never guess that just from watching it. Their writing and directing skills were mature beyond their years.

In this modern noir, a jealous husband (Dan Hedaya) hires a sleezy private investigator to murder his wife (Frances McDormand) and her new lover (John Getz). But a series of double crosses leads to tangled web of lies and bloodshed.

The best and most memorable performance comes from M. Emmet Walsh as the PI. He makes a delightfully sleezy villain. McDormand is good, though her role mostly requires she be the damsel in distress, so she doesn't get a chance to flaunt her real acting chops (see Fargo). Hedaya is also really good as the husband who, despite his shady exterior, is perhaps the most sympathetic character in the film.

Simple isn't quirky like most of the Coens' later movies. It is a taut supense film with sharp writing and original directing. Few filmmakers, let alone first timers, can achieve drama this engaging and real. Expect less Big Lebowski and more Miller's Crossing from this movie. But with relatively little humor and a very small cast of characters, Blood Simple isn't like any other Coens Brothers film. Still, if you enjoy stories of murder and intrigue, this is one of the best.