By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) –
Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) is the owner of a bar deep in the heart of Texas. He suspects his wife Abby (Francis McDormand) of cheating on him, and hires private investigator Loren Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) to find out. When the investigator returns to Marty with photographs, Marty reacts violently. After an unfortunate confrontation which results in yet another blow to Marty’s ego he again hires Visser, this time to kill Abby and her new boy friend Ray (John Getz).
Reading the above synopsis, and not being familiar with the director, you’d likely assume the film to be yet another cookie-cutter crime thriller. Director Joel Coen and Producer Ethan Coen have been a collaborative brain trust for many years, but it was with the Neo-Noir Blood Simple that they got their start. The film bears many of their earmarks, taking a simple story, and twisting it into something far outside of normal cinema.
The first aspect of the film which is noteworthy are the performances. Dan Hedaya is particularly menacing as Marty, a man who allows his own anger and frustrations to play out violently. The truth of the situation is that he got the short end of the stick and has a legitimate right to be angry. It is when he acts on it these feelings that he crosses over into villainy.
These guys seem legit.
Francis McDormand’s job as Abby is to be wonderfully clueless. She isn’t a stupid person, but because of the circumstances set forth by her husband, she is left to wander through numerous horrific situations without any knowledge of what has actually occurred.
In the film, John Getz’s character Ray encounters a situation which he assumes was the work of Abby, and in one of the most disturbing sequences in cinema spends the middle third of the film covering it up. Carter Burwell’s score, combined with the Coen’s tight editing and direction, compliments these events brilliantly. Few horror movies of the 1980s managed the sheer dread and disturbing tension achieved here, much less any thriller.
M. Emmett Walsh is the film’s most unique character. Visser may be a greedy man willing to do just about anything for money, but he is also a very down to earth person, provided he hasn’t decided to kill you. In which case he is cold and distant. The two sides to his character are fascinating, as his friendly side is overtaken by business, which he takes very seriously.
Serious Cowboy is serious
Aside from being a solid mystery story, Blood Simple also plays out like a comedy of errors (an immensely dark one). Each of the film’s characters make a series of absolutely terrible decisions which play out in the worst possible ways. This is an aspect that often goes unnoticed upon initial viewings, as the events depicted are deeply disturbing.
However, upon repeat viewings the comedic timing becomes more and more obvious. The brilliance of this is difficult to convey in words, as it means the film is one which only grows in appeal as it is appreciated.
A debut film that still ranks among the Coen’s best.
Take a Drink: each time a character fucks up miraculously
Take a Drink: for the Four Tops
Do a Shot: for every MacGuffin