Blood Simple

Movie Information

In Brief: As good as it is on its own merits, Blood Simple worked as the Coens Brothers' announcement of themselves to the moviegoing world — showing off, to the best of their ability on a low budget, exactly what they had to offer the movies. So much of what they indeed proved they did (and do) have to offer is in — even if only in sketchbook form — this one very savvy show-off movie. It constantly draws attention to itself and the filmmakers, showing over and over again how clever and original it is. I can only think of two other films that have been so effectively used a debut in this manner — Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave (1995) and the Wachowski Brothers’ Bound (1996). Here we are 30 years after it first appeared, and it hasn't dated at all. If anything, it's even better than it seemed in 1984.  
Genre: Neo-noir Thriller
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, M. Emmet Walsh, Samm-Art Williams
Rated: R



Though it’s always a welcome sight on any screen, the fact is that this marks the third time I’ve written something about the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple (1984), and I simply don’t have anything to add to what I’ve said (at this moment at least), so I’m defaulting to this brief assessment — As a movie in and of itself, Blood Simple is almost impossibly entertaining. Yes, its story—of a bad husband (Dan Hedaya) whose wife (Frances McDormand) runs off with one of her bar-owner spouse’s bartenders (John Getz)—is little more than an exercise in James M. Cain-styled noir, as is the husband’s decision to have a corrupt private eye (M. Emmett Walsh) agree to kill the duo. But what makes it work is the manner in which the Coens’ screenplay constantly turns on itself with alarming precision, the quirky cynicism of the dialogue and the memorable ways in which the film is shot. There are some obvious budgetary constrictions, but these fall into insignificance thanks to the cumulative effect of the whole film. In fact, it’s a virtual textbook of how to make a unique film with very little money—and one of the best debut works around.

Wedge Brewery will show Blood Simple on Saturday, July 11 (Rain date: Aug. 2). Films start 15 minutes after sundown. They are shown outside. We’ve got a limited number of chairs, so it’s a good idea to pack a folding chair or a blanket, and maybe a jacket because it does get chilly when the sun goes down. El Kimchi has great Mexican/Korean street food for purchase, but no popcorn! So, if popcorn is part of someone’s movie experience, they’ll need to pack that, too.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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