Film: Blood Simple

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Film:

Blood Simple

Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Universal Studios

The debut film of director Joel Coen and his brother-producer Ethan Coen, 1983’s Blood Simple is grisly comic noir that marries the feverish toughness of pulp thrillers with the ghoulishness of even pulpier horror. (Imagine the novels of Jim Thompson somehow fused with the comic tabloid Weird Tales, and you get the idea.) The story concerns a Texas bar owner (Dan Hedaya) who hires a seedy private detective (M. Emmett Walsh) to follow his cheating wife (Frances McDormand in her first film appearance), and then kill her and her lover (John Getz). The…

Reviews

Amazon.com

The debut film of director Joel Coen and his brother-producer Ethan Coen, 1983’s Blood Simple is grisly comic noir that marries the feverish toughness of pulp thrillers with the ghoulishness of even pulpier horror. (Imagine the novels of Jim Thompson somehow fused with the comic tabloid Weird Tales, and you get the idea.) The story concerns a Texas bar owner (Dan Hedaya) who hires a seedy private detective (M. Emmett Walsh) to follow his cheating wife (Frances McDormand in her first film appearance), and then kill her and her lover (John Getz). The gumshoe turns the tables on his client, and suddenly a bad situation gets much, much worse, with some violent goings-on that are as elemental as they are shocking. (A scene in which a character who has been buried alive suddenly emerges from his own grave instantly becomes an archetypal nightmare.) Shot by Barry Sonnenfeld before he became an A-list director in Hollywood, Blood Simple established the hyperreal look and feel of the Coens’ productions (undoubtedly inspired a bit by filmmaker Sam Raimi, whose The Evil Dead had just been coedited by Joel). Sections of the film have proved to be an endurance test for art-house movie fans, particularly an extended climax that involves one shock after another but ends with a laugh at the absurdity of criminal ambition. This is definitely one of the triumphs of the 1980s and the American independent film scene in general. —Tom Keogh

Barnes and Noble

Blood’s not so simple when you’re trying to clean a floor drenched with it, but that’s all part of the fun in the Coen Brothers’s auspicious debut. Directed by Joel, produced by Ethan, and written by both of them (their standard operating procedure), Blood Simple tells the story of a bar owner (Dan Hedaya) who hires a private detective (M. Emmet Walsh) to kill his unfaithful wife (Frances McDormand) and her lover (John Getz). Not much goes according to anyone’s plan here, however, and Blood Simple delights with clever plot twists and turns, which are conveyed through audacious camera moves and richly expressive black-and-white photography. There’s solid acting all around, but it is Walsh who steals this show in perhaps the best role of his career: He’s perfect as a slouching, overweight archetype of snide cynicism. Performances aside, the film is a celebration of style and irony and a showcase for director Joel’s visual inventiveness. A seminal film in the American independent movement as well as a cult classic, Blood Simple succeeds brilliantly as film noir even as its tongue alternates from cheek-to-cheek.

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