24 July 2015 | AlsExGal
First outing for the Coens is an outstanding 80's film noir thriller
This is the Coen brothers' directorial film debut, and not only is it different from most other films in the Coens' catalog of work, it is just a different kind of film altogether. With a budget of just a little more than one million dollars and four main characters, the Coen brothers created a film noir thriller 35 years after the genre had expired. In this film the Coens demonstrate that if you have a conscience, a killing can be hard to carry out, but regardless of whether or not you have a conscience, a killing is hard to get away with.
Throughout the film, as is true in many film noirs, the audience is kept aware of most of what is really going on, which is a grand misunderstanding with very tragic consequences. The four characters are all being misled by the incomplete part of the jigsaw puzzle that each of them possesses. The setup is simple enough: Ray is having an affair with Abby, wife of his evil boss Marty. Marty gets angry about the situation and decides to pay a private eye to murder both of them. Things proceed to go as badly as possible for everyone from that point on as each of our characters are mainly motivated by mistrust - even the young lovers Ray and Abby.
What makes Blood Simple different from other Coen brothers films is he complete lack of humor throughout the entire film. Even the bleak "Fargo" is sprinkled with humor throughout. Equally noticeable is the cold remoteness that fills every square inch of this film which includes everything from Abby's Texas-sized apartment, to the flat open stretches of Texas landscape. This cold remoteness just seems to magnify the quiet terror of what is going on. For in this movie, the spilling of blood isn't clean, easy, or free of emotional consequence. For example, when one character is in the process of burying the "body" of someone he believed had been murdered by someone else, he finds out, much to his surprise, that the person is actually still alive. Now faced with the "necessity" of killing this person to cover up the crime, he finds the task impossible to do in a clean quick way - with a rifle. As a result, he winds up actually killing the person in the most horrible way possible - by simply ignoring the fact that he is still alive and burying him anyway - all because he is too queasy to commit the overt act of shooting someone himself. As we witness the sun come up on a day bereft of the life of the deceased and the entombment complete, it's very relieving to remember it's only a movie.
None of this is to say that Blood Simple isn't an enjoyable film. Seeing the characters and their lives come apart one by one will keep you riveted to your seat. We already know "who done it," we're just hanging around to see if the other characters figure out not only "who done it", but what it is that has been done in the first place. All the cast members were great and Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, and M. Emmett Walsh have gone on to bigger and better things since this movie was made. I just wonder what happened to John Getz, since he performed just as well as the other three only to remain largely unknown. With the exception of a small part in the remake of "The Fly" in 1986, I can't think of another film in which I've seen him.
In summary, the best thing about Blood Simple is that even if we always know what's happening, we never know what's going to happen next up to the very end. Highly recommended.