A mentally unstable Vietnam War veteran works as a night-time taxi driver in New York City where the perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge for violent action, while attempting to save a preadolescent prostitute in the process.
Robert De Niro,
Jerry works in his father-in-law's car dealership and has gotten himself in financial problems. He tries various schemes to come up with money needed for a reason that is never really explained. It has to be assumed that his huge embezzlement of money from the dealership is about to be discovered by father-in-law. When all else falls through, plans he set in motion earlier for two men to kidnap his wife for ransom to be paid by her wealthy father (who doesn't seem to have the time of day for son-in-law). From the moment of the kidnapping, things go wrong and what was supposed to be a non-violent affair turns bloody with more blood added by the minute. Jerry is upset at the bloodshed, which turns loose a pregnant sheriff from Brainerd, MN who is tenacious in attempting to solve the three murders in her jurisdiction. Written by
In that interplay between a Brainerd, MN., police officer and a witness discussing a criminal investigation, you have one of your principal pieces of dialogue from what is considered by many to be Joel and Ethan Coen's finest film.
Of course you can draw comparisons to others they've made, such as Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, even Barton Fink and The Big Lebowski. But Fargo illustrates the Coen Brothers' takes on plot, art and drama more succinctly and emotionally than any of those others. Here you have a set of memorable, if not always likable, characters in a plot that goes from clunky to chaotic in the most unspoiled manner, from Jerry Lundegaard's stilted conversation with Gaear and Carl in a bar in Fargo at the beginning of the movie - the only occasion in which the movie specifically shows you Fargo, N.D. - to Marge Gunderson's confrontation with Gaear and the wood-chipper.
Frances McDormand deservedly won an Oscar for playing a well-balanced, intelligent, pregnant police officer placing her own straightforward methodology on to an investigation of bizarre goings-on. And William H. Macy gives a true one-two punch playing a frenetically-charged, fearful and, in the end, inept used car salesman trying in the most remarkable manner to make money. The two best scenes in the movie are the two occasions in which Marge questions Jerry about the Brainerd murders and a car from his lot being involved -- I couldn't imagine an actress doing a better job of seriously but comically exclaiming, "He's fleeing the interview!"
Notable among the actors as well are Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare playing Carl and Gaear, the two hit men hired by Jerry to help him con his father-in-law out of money. There's comic brilliance watching Stormare silently grimace at Buscemi's violent but gregarious behavior, and Buscemi shines being able to play the most out-of-control of all the characters in the movie. Kristin Rudrüd also stands out playing Jean Lundegaard, Jerry's haplessly kidnapped wife.
If you can appreciate an intelligent look at not-always-so-intelligent life on this planet, you'll enjoy the little more than the hour and a half this movie has to show you.
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