Directed By Sam Raimi
By: Eric G.
The plot of A Simple Plan is an exciting prospect in the hands of Sam Raimi, the director of such comic-horror classics as Evil Dead and Army Of Darkness (not to mention Darkman). Three country bumpkins stumble on a mammoth amount of cash (4.4 million) in a nature preserve in the dead of winter. Money versus morals drives the rest of the film, which goes wrong in all the right ways, allowing Raimi to put his unsubtle touch on the inevitable bursts of gratuitous violence that will ensue. Bill Paxton plays the guilt ridden square with a wife and kid to think about while Billy Bob Thornton plays his semi-retarded brother whose simpleton dreams amount to owning his childhood farmhouse.
Raimi paces things slowly with a constant threat of unraveling that balances an element of suspense throughout the film. Thornton’s amazing portrayal of the underdog sibling who got the short end of the stick while his younger brother got sent off to college carries the energy of the film. We can’t trust him on any level. His stupidity breeds a child-like innocence and insight, which plays on our sympathies, yet the look in his eye is of a man who knows sin and its repercussions. The constant feeling of instability stems from Thornton’s character and the brooding shots of crows and barren forests that Raimi sneaks in to displace the comfort of the small town setting.
Bridget Fonda plays a sort of puppet master whose morals crumble in the name of greed, planning her husband’s (Bill Paxton) every move. We know it’s going to get bad, so it’s just a matter of time before the bodies start piling up. Raimi carefully plods through a well-crafted script. The film has a similar look to that of Fargo but its tone is not nearly so tongue in cheek. Whereas with Fargo we laughed at things you’re not supposed to find funny, with A Simple Plan we root for people whose motives we are supposed to question. Raimi comes through in a big way, drawing tight performances from his actors and maintaining control without succumbing to the obvious, easy choices.