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Blood Simple. More at IMDbPro »

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117 out of 144 people found the following review useful:

Try to watch this without talking to the characters...

8/10
Author: William Ross from Atlanta, Georgia
21 April 2000

I think this film, probably more than any other, causes me to talk to the characters on the screen in an exasperated way--something akin to the way you want to yell at the characters in a slasher movie not to run outside to investigate sounds.

The only difference is that this film is fantastic, whereas cheap slasher movies are not. Blood Simple is emotionally involving and the suspense is played to perfection. While the characters are completely clueless as to what has gone on around them, we know everything. What we don't know is what the characters are going to do next.

As in every Coen film, things quickly get out of control. Some people have commented that the characters here acted unbelievably, but I'd have to say that when you think about their situations, the reactions are completely compatible with the way the characters are set up. The problem is that nobody knows what's going on except the viewers.

Coen fans will notice many recurring themes from their other films (especially Fargo and The Big Lebowski) such as the use of headlights, passing motorists witnessing a crime, shower curtains and bathroom windows, detectives driving VW beetles, husbands hiring the wrong people to carry out a crime... I had a longer list in mind earlier while watching it but I've forgotten some. It's almost like these films all go together as a series of films depicting how similar situations would end up in different locations in America.

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75 out of 103 people found the following review useful:

Texas noir

8/10
Author: Jeff (spoonjef@aol.com) from L.A. CA
28 March 2000

Blood Simple is pure Coens. There are the usual bag of cinematic tricks, the twisting storyline, the seamy characters, and the occasional droplet of dark humor. The story concerns a bar owner who thinks his wife is cheating on him. He hires a sleazy private investigator to find out, and when he learns the truth, he wants them dead. Trouble is, things get kind of complicated when a murder occurs. The film creates a palpable feeling of tension, where you don't know what to expect next. Half the fun of this film is trying to figure out what will happen. A true testament of the well sturctured nature of the film, is the fact that there are only four main characters, and they hold your attention till the very end. And in traditional film noir fanfare, all of these characters have some sort of sordid business to attend to. The Coens drew on their experiences on Blood Simple and made the similar, but very different, Fargo. Watch Blood Simple for a good old fashioned film noir that will keep you guessing.

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84 out of 123 people found the following review useful:

Memorable Modern Noir

9/10
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
8 November 2005

This was the Coen Brothers first movie and I think it might rank second-best to more-famous "Fargo."

This is suspenseful neo-noir (modern-day film noir) filled with fun direction by the Coens: low camera angles, closeups, concentration of sounds such as the whirring of an overhead fan, some dramatic pauses, strange characters and even stranger events taking place. The only thing missing I'd like to have is 5.1 surround sound.

Warning: some bloody scenes in here are downright gross, but they sure produce some memorable scenes.

Character-wise, Dan Hedeya proves to be the toughest man to kill I've ever seen in a movie! Frances McDormand is young and looks pretty, the best I've ever seen her look. John Getz's character is strange and sometimes to frustrating to watch and Emmet Walsh is outstanding at playing the sleazy private detective. Those four, along with Samm-Art Williams, comprise almost all the speaking parts in this film.

This is an involving movie. Once started, you're hooked on this strange story. I wish the Coens would have made more movies like this.

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58 out of 85 people found the following review useful:

brilliant noir

9/10
Author: Robert Guenther (robt_chi@yahoo.com)
26 August 2004

This film is the Coen brothers' homage to the great noir thrillers of the golden age. Cheating spouses, feckless private dicks, mistaken identities, a bundle of dirty cash are rendered to their bare essence in the mess of rotting fish sitting on Marty's desk. The film is notable as much for the audacity of the Coen brothers in getting it made as it is for its success in turning the broad, open expanses of west texas into a claustrophobia unknown even to Saddam in his spider hole. It appears the Coens made five minutes of the film to show to investors, though they had absolutely no idea what the rest of the film would look like. They basically sold the mood of the film, and their efforts bore fruit. The film established the Coen brothers as a creative force and Frances McDormand as a rising art house star whose journey would eventually garner Oscar for the Coens' "Fargo." I rate it highly for visual appeal, intelligent story and good sheer suspense and terror.

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65 out of 99 people found the following review useful:

A Dark Little Gem

8/10
Author: gbheron from Washington, DC
12 September 1999

The Coen Brothers first commercial film tells a noirish tale of murder, double-cross, and betrayal in small town America. A greasy small-town Texas saloon owner discovers his wife is having an affair with one of his bartenders. He hires the private detective that documented the affair to kill the couple. But the PI has different plans, and then everything starts going wrong, very wrong. The acting is great especially M. Emmett Walsh as the double-crossing PI. The direction and camera work presage the Coens subsequent work.

This movie is a treat of a rental if you can find it. It's worth looking for.

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41 out of 53 people found the following review useful:

The Coens' first great piece of cinema

10/10
Author: Max_cinefilo89 from Italy
16 July 2008

As far as directorial debuts go, few are as ambitious and inventive as the Coen brothers' first film, Blood Simple, as it mixes genres and moods in a way that anticipated Tarantino's similar experiments by a decade, while still retaining an apparent simplicity, both narratively and formally, that few people originally saw as the beginning of one of American cinema's most extraordinary careers.

Set in a stark Texas landscape, Blood Simple opens on a premise that seems to be borrowed from the likes of Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings Twice: someone steals another man's wife. However, the two adulterous lovers (Jamie Getz and Frances McDormand) do not plan to assassinate the betrayed husband (Dan Hedaya). On the contrary, he hires a sleazy PI (M. Emmett Walsh) to spy on them to carry out some twisted plan of his own. That is, until the investigator goes rogue and the situation escalates in the most grotesque of ways.

This escalation is matched by the Coens' constant shifts between genres, achieved through lighting, music and camera movements. Noir, straightforward thriller, horror, black comedy: Blood Simple is each of these and all of them at once, but the transition is never forced or unnatural; in fact, these transitions occur because somehow the story itself demands that they happen. In a way, this is a film that is aware of its own fictitious nature and toys with it as much as possible - because it can. This has since become a trademark of the two brothers, and it is as fresh and original now as it was back in 1984.

The same can be said of the four main actors: Getz and McDormand (soon to be Mrs. Joel Coen) form a solid leading couple, thoroughly menaced by the sudden ferocity of Hedaya, then best known for playing Rhea Perlman's dim-witted ex-husband on Cheers (an image he gladly, and expertly, reverses here). And then there's Walsh, who takes his practically identical role in Blade Runner and increases the character's unlikability, turning in one of the most brutally charming villainous performances of the '80s (and of the Coen canon).

Joel and Ethan Coen had a very clear idea of what they wanted to achieve in the movie business from the get-go, and Blood Simple is one of the best examples of this: for 90 minutes, it takes you to a whole new world, one that most people are happy to revisit as often as they can.

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41 out of 62 people found the following review useful:

Four Fish On The Desk

9/10
Author: Sword Of The Protector from United States
27 July 2015

Spoilers Ahead:

I know Ebert calls it Noir, it has shadows and misanthropy, all the characters are evil but their is no moral protagonist, ergo, it cannot be Film Noir. Please, watch Out Of The Past, Laura, Kiss Of Death: Film Noir has a moral protagonist who is often killed or if they survive, like Mildred Pierce, they are severely damaged. That is the touchstone, take it from someone who owns hundreds of Film Noir. The shadows and everyone but the protagonist being a rat, these are tangential: the quintessential feature is Morality wins at great cost. Often the moral protagonist is destroyed as in: Kiss of Death, Out Of The Past, Double Indemnity. The issue aside, this is a great movie. The fish on the desk what beautiful imagery; that is the existential metaphor for these four. Lauren, the smiling ghoul, with the flies constantly on his body; another well done piece of symbolism. Getz's Ray is very evocative of Fargo's killer devoid of the power of speech. Ray is so lost among events which even Marty tries to clear up for him. Watch when Abby uses the very same phrase Marty presciently predicted,"Ray, I don't know what you're talking about, I ain't done nothing funny." Ray's fog clears for a moment and he sees that perhaps he isn't getting the deal of the century he envisioned.

Walsh is the star of this movie: yes, they are on their own. All their plans come unraveled little pieces of fate, a picture left here, a lighter there. The whole structure of their lives collapse like a house of cards. The fragility of human life how the structure is interconnected, in a matrix, between these four. The movie, like the later Coen film, No Country For Old Men, portrays the world as a meaningless interconnected web of relationships. One alteration, the killing of Marty by Lauren, brings them all, except Abby into the fly zapper behind Marty. These little mistakes, the lighter on the desk, the picture in the safe unleash a hurricane of unintended consequences. Abby's planted gun, Lauren not shooting Marty fatally lead to a nightmare for everyone involved. A very well written, suspenseful movie replete with pop out scares. It is unexpected if it is anything. I dare anyone to tell me what is going to happen next the first showing. This gives it verisimilitude because life is exactly like this: unpredictable and chaotic.

We hear this out of Lauren in the opening narration. No matter how well you plan, life has a way of messing everything all up. It is a nihilistic classic; there is no moral order here. The survivor, the faithless wife, who utters the very words that confirm every word Marty said about her is not a moral protagonist of Classic Film Noir. She is the last rat standing. The film is an exceptionally scary, creepy dark as midnight treasure. It is not for the kiddies. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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42 out of 70 people found the following review useful:

amazing debut

Author: ginger_sonny from London, England
31 August 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Coen brothers' magnificent feature film debut

Scumbag private eye Walsh plans the perfect crime when he's hired by a Texan bar owner to kill his wife (McDormand) and her lover (Getz). But the ploy to fool his employer with mocked up photographic evidence goes spectacularly awry when his shortcut is discovered, and Walsh is forced to knock off the adulterous couple after all.

Jet-black, wickedly funny and driven by an ingenious plot, the film holds all the clues to the Coens' peerless future, including bizarre deaths, itching paranoia and Walsh's delicious performance of sweat-stained villainy.

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28 out of 45 people found the following review useful:

A stylish film noir…

7/10
Author: Righty-Sock (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico
11 December 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The basic fact (a Texan bar-owner is betrayed by the private detective he hires to murder his faithless wife and her lover) is transformed by an imaginatively tortuous script into a clever, almost farcical study of humans forever misinterpreting each other's actions…

While the audience understands what is happening, the characters, their perceptions distorted by suspicion, fear and jealousy, strike in the dark and destroy friends, enemies and themselves… Murder, too, is a dirty, protracted business – one character is even buried alive – just as, in the Coens' irredeemably seedy Texas, the corrupt private eye (marvelously played by M. Emmett Walsh) sweats continuously…

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29 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

Texas Is a Five-Letter Word Too.

Author: tfrizzell from United States
16 June 2005

Demented and dominant directorial debut for Joel Coen as he and brother/co-writer Ethan Coen weave a film noir-styled tale of bad coincidences and worse planning. Sound familiar? In a bleak Texas landscape the wife (Frances McDormand) of a bar owner (Dan Hedaya) has a torrid affair with one of her husband's employees (John Getz). Hedaya hires mysterious private investigator/windbag M. Emmet Walsh to spy on the duo and then re-hires him to kill the adulterers. Naturally though nothing is as simple or clear as it seems. An excruciatingly dull start takes a backseat finally to a tense little tease of a film that benefits from a deliberate pace and a haunting musical score. "Blood Simple" is so well realized that it would have worked just as effectively as a silent flick. The dialogue is just a distraction to the picture's creepy atmosphere and enigmatic Texas landscape. Walsh, always known as a character actor, dominates most within the production's unique ensemble. Could be called "Pre-Fargo". 4 stars out of 5.

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