Blood Simple. (1985)

22 Jan

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Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Blood Simple.” is the first film created by the Coen Brothers—directed by Joel Coen, produced by Ethan Coen, and written by both. Like many first-time directors fresh out of film school, they take joy in showing everything they can, involving “style” into their first big project. The product works—“Blood Simple.” is a tense, well-executed thriller that proves great talent by promising filmmakers.

“Blood Simple.” Isn’t one of those thrillers that keeps you guessing with its many “uncertainties” that the filmmakers love to play with. It tells a straightforward story, but goes through entire detail in showing it. There are many twists and turns as the film continues, but the strange thing is that they all seem like they were meant to be. And while doing so, it taps into fear and guilt—what happens after a murder is committed, you think you might be blamed for it, and you try to dispose of the body?

What’s the story? This is going to be difficult to explain without giving away certain things that I would rather not reveal. The less you know about it, the better. I’ll just give you the setup. Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) hires a private investigator (M. Emmet Walsh) to spy on his wife Abby (Frances McDormand) and her lover Ray (John Getz). The private investigator takes many pictures, which further enrages Julian. So he pays the P.I. to murder them. But something goes very, very wrong.

Period. That’s all I’m going to say about the plot. I knew close to nothing about this movie when I first watched it, and trust me—not knowing what’s going to happen makes it more special. Let’s just say that there is a lot of trouble in disposing a corpse in the film’s very best sequence. Without naming names, someone finds the body, thinks he knows who committed the crime, decides to dispose of it himself, and clean up the mess. There’s blood everywhere, and it stays there no matter how hard he tries to clean it all up. Then he puts the body in his car, but wait a minute! While the car is stopped, the body gets up and tries to crawl away! And someone is coming! Then what? It’s just a crazy sequence that gets more complicated and more dangerous as it goes along.

Everything is so mixed up, the characters don’t even know who’s really who during this mess. It leads to further complication, more guilt, more fear, and a heavy dose of tension. This is one of the more gripping, shocking thrillers I think I’ve ever seen.

The visual style is incredible. Every shot in this moment has something interesting to look at; even everyday things, like a simple door or a plowed field (with tire tracks across it), or gruesome things, like a bullet hole in the chest. There’s even a shot in which a character feels guilt and a newspaper is thrown at the screen door, looking like a soaring missile about to strike. The cinematography is great, with its low-angle shots, high-angle shots, zoom-ins, and tilt shots, and never to the point where it’s all over the map. It’s consistently brilliant. We’re interested in keeping our eyes on the screen the whole time.

“Blood Simple.” is a stylish film and an original, intelligent thriller, and it just shows how far the Coen Brothers will go from it.

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