A Simple Plan (1998) Poster

(1998)

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9/10
Twisted, but exceptionally crafted.
lordrob4 January 1999
This is not the film to see if you're looking for a feel-good Hollywood anesthetic to cope with the end of the holiday season. If, however, you wish to experience a great film, then I highly recommend *A Simple Plan*. Its disturbing twist on the American dream may be too difficult for some--especially the very dark ending--but that is part of what makes the film such quality fare. Scott B. Smith's screenplay is tight and flawless. Sam Raimi's inspired direction may finally reveal to the rest of the film industry what fans of the Evil Dead trilogy have known for years: that, though his tongue is often firmly in his cheek, Raimi is a fine and grossly underrated filmmaker. Especially impressive is the way he and cinematographer Alar Kivilo approach the snow-covered landscapes. There is an immensity to the frozen wastelands of the film's crucial scenes that is almost worthy of David Lean. Also commendable is Raimi's skillful use of animals (among them crows and foxes) for symbolic purposes.

But the cast, not to be outdone by their crew, is equally notable. Billy Bob Thornton gives his best performance to date, surpassing even his award-winning role in *Sling Blade*. Bill Paxton is phenomenal as a straight-laced-family-man- turned sociopath, and Bridget Fonda's convincing portrayal of Paxton's determined wife complements him well.

Audiences at the screening I saw were commenting on the film's similarities to *Fargo* as they exited the theater, and seemed to belittle *A Simple Plan* for its lack of "originality." Granted, *A Simple Plan* is not entirely original. There are indeed vague shadows of *Fargo*, as well as *Macbeth* and Robert Frost, among others. But there is no such thing as an entirely original work, as great art is made by standing on the shoulders of giants. Make no mistake, this is NOT a cheap replay of *Fargo*. The differences are too numerous to note here, but suffice it to say that *A Simple Plan* is a great work in its own right, and deserves to be appreciated as such.
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A study in desperation
bandguy17 July 2000
A Simple Plan is certainly not a simple film, as some reviewers here had hoped it would be. The point is not how simple life is, but how horribly wrong and out of control things can get. This film takes you to the absolute depths of human greed, desperation, and frailty. It is amazing how many evil deeds one can rationalize by believing "and then it will all be over." A Simple Plan is a great character study which makes you think of what you would do in the same situation. At what point would you draw the line? How far would you go to keep millions of dollars all to yourself? The excellent photography adds to the sense of desperation that permeates the whole film. The vast, snowbound landscape is the perfect image for the feelings the main characters have for their station in life: cold, silent, lifeless, unending, and unrelenting.

Don't watch this movie unless you are prepared to see a group of people reach the end of their rope and make a series of life-changing decisions.
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This movie really makes you examine your own motives.
TxMike7 September 1999
"A Simple Plan" immediately reminds you of "Fargo". A dull, snowy winter. Men beginning to cheat on a small scale, which then begins to escalate until it becomes out of control. And no one will *like* the ending, but it is the only ending that could make this fine film complete.

It is set in the wintertime. Two brothers come upon a small plane that has crashed. Since there have been no news reports, they rightly assume no one knows about it. There's money inside, lots of money. Everyone knows what the 'right' thing to do is. But what will they do? What would most people do?

The acting, especially Billy Bob Thornton, is excellent. You will watch the film without blinking. You will ask yourself, "what would I do in a similar situation?" Unless you only like light entertainment, you really need to see this film.
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Simply Terrific
Steve-1767 February 1999
Simply one of the best films of the year, perhaps the decade! A Simple Plan is about three men who find a huge amount of money in a plane wreck. They decide to keep the dough. It's like winning the lottery. It's the American Dream except that " you're supposed to work for the American Dream. But that just makes this better" replies one of the characters.

A Simple Plan stars Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton as two Minnesotan brothers Hank and Jacob who find the money with Jake's friend Lou played by Brent Briscoe.

The film is directed by Sam Raimi, the creator of the Evil Dead movies and there are some suitably macabre and funny Evil Dead touches to this masterpiece, although Raimi doesn't botch A Simple Plan up as he did with Sharon Stone's The Quick And The Dead a couple of years ago. This is a restrained, delicate Raimi.

A Simple Plan instead is on one plane a wry incisive comment on the human condition, but it's also a cautionary tale about the evil good men can do.

The characters are fascinating. Paxton as Hank is the brainy one of the three. He's been to college and has a wife (Bridget Fonda) who's just about to have a baby. Jacob is slow and sad with a big touch of goodness about him. His hair is lank, his teeth are dirty, he's in his thirties and has never had a girlfriend.

Jake gets drunk most days and nights with his boozing friend Lou, and both are unemployed. The prospect of a ton of money is as unsettling and exciting to this lot as it would be to any honest person who becomes suddenly very rich unexpectedly and illegally. This find is guaranteed to turn their lives up side down.

But things take increasingly violent turns until A Simple Plan has the air of a Shakespearian tragedy solidly biased by Hitchcockian twists. Add to this Raimi's weird sense of humour and a Coen Brothers, Fargo like frozen air and you have a superb film that will have you laughing uncomfortably as you ponder the extent to which men and women will go nuts and nasty when greed overcomes them.

Quite rightly both Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton are being touted for big acting awards as a result of their work in this marvellous film.
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8/10
Dark and twisted - classy
Rumples17 August 1999
This is not a pleasant film and you are going to have to think a little - if this doesn't sound like your type of movie, stay away! If, however, you like intelligent and peculiar film-making, then you'll probably appreciate A Simple Plan. In an effort somewhat reminiscient of Fargo meets Shallow Grave, this clever, dark, character drama explores some unpleasant ground to produce a quirky and distrubing overall result. I must admit I finished this movie feeling rather unpleasant, but struck by its intellect and striking dialogue and performances. This movie is definitely worth the price of a video. My vote 8/10
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10/10
Highly Underrated !!! Guys wake up and Please see this movie and Vote , deserves a Place in IMDb Top 250
asad-comp7 September 2009
A simple plan,you may compare it with shawshank redemption and believe me Frank darabont won't mind it.Because this ain't a suspense thriller but with all the things open in the story you will love it.Sometime you will be so involved in the movie that you want to give some advice to the Bill Paxton ,and yes you must not forget about the Academy award nominee performance by the Billy Bob Thornton,the real innocence you can see in him.I don't know what else people were expecting from this movie????? i am curious to know this ! and also i would love to see this movie in IMDb top 250 , I am a movie buff and guys as Baz Luhrmann asked people to trust him on sunscreen i am asking you to trust me on " A simple plan " it worths a rent of 100 $ ,i believe is one of the best of movie that i had ever seen,Best Screenplay , Superb story , Good performances,As a whole i will rate it as 10/10 .
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Well filmed, well paced drama-come-thriller that never goes too far
bob the moo27 June 2002
Hank, Jacob and Lou are out for a ride in Hank's truck when they hit a tree. Walking out into the snow they find a crashed plane in the woods with the pilot dead and a bag of money ($4 million). They decide to keep the money and wait to see if anything is mentioned about it. However as time passes mistrust and betrayal becomes murder as the original simple plan becomes more and more complex.

Sam Rami is a great director, albeit more well known for less subtle films than this such as the Evil Dead movies. However here he shows that he can deal with things that lack in OTT visuals etc but be a good subtle director. The basic story starts simply and gets more convoluted very easily. The plot twists are never absurd even if they are extreme, the way the story builds gradually is one of it's strengths. The best bit is the way that everything is simple (as in the title) – the snow makes all the scenes a simple white, the relationships are simple and the misunderstandings are straight forward. This simple nature makes the twists even more powerful as they come in the middle of a `normal' situation..

The cast are all very good. Paxton is especially good in the lead as the man who doesn't want to take the money originally who then is forced to take the lead in the actions that need doing to cover the crime. Thornton is the best – he not even that recognizable and he deals with his role really well. He may be a simpleton but he doesn't make it just a cartoon role. Briscoe is less well defined and Fonda isn't really key to the plot. Gary Cole has a small part towards the end and Paxton Snr has a small role.

Overall this is very enjoyable. As a noir it is very different to have it in a Fargo landscape. Rami's toned down direction is very good and he does very well with the exciting twists and with the emotional sections too. A different, sometimes slow, but very enjoyable thriller of greed and mistrust.
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8/10
At what cost?
TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews30 July 2009
Say what you will about him, like him or hate him, you gotta admit that Raimi knows the craft. Here, he puts Hitchcock's methods to good use, decades after the master died, and creates amounts of suspense that honor his memory. The tension is thick and impossible to ignore. This is exciting and engaging, and it's completely realistic, down to earth and human, to boot. The pace is spot-on, this never outruns the viewer, in spite of being fast and tight, and so much of the relationships and past being told to us through hints, the behaviour and how situations evolve. More thrillers should be like this. This also qualifies as noir and drama. The acting is beyond reproach, there's not a single performance that is lacking, and I'd say Paxton does pretty good in a lead role. Kudos to Thornton for not turning his part into a caricature. The writing is excellent. I have not read the novel, but I would like to do so. I understand that this isn't entirely as brutal as the book, though it is disturbing, and, at times, violent. The cinematography and editing are incredible. There is some strong language in this. The story is magnificent, and develops so well throughout. Thank you, Sam, for making an effort, for not just going for the lowest common denominator, and for understanding that it was the build-up - not purely the plot twist at the end - that made Alfred, and his films, such treasure. The DVD holds a theatrical trailer. I recommend this to any fan of the director and/or anyone else who helped create it. 8/10
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7/10
Modern film noir with drama, suspense and sensational performances
ma-cortes30 October 2007
The film deals about Hank(Bill Paxton), his loser brother Jacob(Billy Bob Thornton) and Jacob's best friend, a boozy bud named Lou(Brent Briscoe) find the wreckage of an airplane in the heavy snowy Minnesota forests. The pilot encounters dead and appear a bag filled with various million dollars in stolen money, that they think is dope cash.The trio decide to keep silence about it and Hank hold the money hidden in his house.But someone else is looking for the money, a Fed agent(Gary Cole) and the sheriff(Chelcie Ross)are investigating. Besides, the Hank's mean and pregnant spouse(Bridget Fonda)brings out the greed and soon bad things start to happen to everybody those involved.

This neo-noir story contains drama, thriller, tragedy and is quite entertaining. From the beginning to the ending, suspense and mystery is continuous. The film is plenty of twists, especially on its final part and the script is adapted from the 1993 novel by Scott Smith. The picture is well set and shot in rural small town of Delano, Minnesota. Acting by main actors is frankly excellent with special mention to Billy Bob Thornton and Bridget Fonda as the ambitious librarian wife. Suspenseful and atmospheric music score by Danny Elffman, he's Raimi's usual musician and appropriate cinematography by Kivilo . Firstly was Ben Stiller hired to direct the movie with Nicholas Gage as starring but his wage overall budget and they left , then was set Sam Raimi who made a magnificent direction. He learned techniques on filming in the snowy woods from the Cohen brothers who formerly had directed ¨Fargo¨, a story with certain similarity. Rating : Very good. Better than average. It's a ¨must see¨ for Billy Bob Thornton fans and suspense genre enthusiastic.
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9/10
Simply brilliant
baumer1 July 1999
A Simple Plan is a film that had immense critical acclaim yet was in limited release. I was eagerly looking forward to this films release seeing as I am a huge Bill Paxton fan, but why wasn't this film in wide release? I was living in Toronto at the time and to find this film I had to go downtown to one very small art house theater. It wasn't at any of the bigger Silver City's. And that is a disappointment. Because this film is amazing. In a way ( I can't believe I'm saying this ) this film reminds me a bit of Star Wars. Only in the sense that I think there is enough intrigue and well developed characters that you could have made a trilogy and prequels out of this. Jacob could have a whole movie made about him. The characters are that rich.

The film starts off with two brothers named Hank and Jacob ( Paxton and Thorton ) and a friend named Lou( Brent Briscoe ) chasing their dog into the forest. As they get deep into the woods, they stumble onto a downed plane. It is here they find the money, the buried treasure to the tune of about 4 million dollars. At first they are talking about how rich they are and what they are going to do with the money. But it is then that Hank says that maybe they should wait a while to see if anyone comes looking for the money before they start to spend it. After all, the plane is snow covered so maybe it has been here for a while so by the end of the winter if no one comes for it, they will keep it. The other two are adamantly against that logic. " This is the American dream, " one of them says. " You work for the American dream, you don't steal it." Hank replies. Then of course all hell is about to break loose.

Suddenly people that lead their lives without much money are consumed with greed and desperation. Hank's wife Sarah, in a great performance by Bridget Fonda, says that she is tired of having to eat dessert at home when they go out for dinner. She wants to provide a nest egg for their soon to be child. Lou owes money to everybody and wants his share of the money now. Jacob wants to fix up his dads farm. The insatiable need for money is driving everyone apart. It is from here that the plot thickens and it is like the layers of an onion. Every time you peel one layer back, there is another layer to deal with, until there is nothing left. And then what happens?

This film works because it has a terrific story but it also works because of the people involved with it. I will first mention Raimi, the man responsible for directing this tangled web. He masterfully strokes every shot perfectly. He gets the feel for a small, cold winter town and he actually makes you shiver inspite of yourself. If anyone is a true horror fan they would have known that Raimi had a ( hidden ) genius. His Evil Dead films ( especially the first one ) really showed that he could direct a tight film and he did a masterful job of scaring you. And that is not easy. There are not many truly scary films out there and Evil Dead is one of them. Here he finally gets his due.

The second person I want to mention is the cinematographer. This is Alar Kivilo's first real foray into film. He has worked mostly in TV and for this to be as well photographed as it is, is a true credit to his ability. Filming in the snow adds many challenges to this aspect of film and he conquers it beautifully. There is one scene where there are a few men heading into the woods to find the plane and all we see is their footprints. This scene reminded me of a similar one in Lawrence Of Arabia. It is executed perfectly and it conveys the feeling of what the scene is supposed to represent.

As for the actors involved, as I said, I am a huge Paxton fan, just as anyone is if you like his portrayal of Chet and Hudson. And he is very good in this film. He has to play the level headed one of everyone involved and he comes across as the torn voice of reason here. But as much as I thought he was excellent in this flick, I have to say that Billy Bob Thorton blew me away. You can feel his pain. You can sense his split loyalty--friendship and brotherhood. Everything that we are supposed to see in him, we do. He really should have won a best supporting actor this year but he had the deck stacked against him seeing that he already has a statue and James Coburn, the veteran that he is, has none. Go figure. Too many politics in the academy, but anyway....

This film examines so many human issues and it asks us to make our own decisions along the way. And the sad reality is maybe we wouldn't make some of the same decisions, but maybe we would have made worse ones as well. It is a tough movie to examine, and that is what ultimately makes it brilliant.

**** Just on a side note here, I just find it amazing how the six degrees of separation works here. Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thorton have known each other for years and they worked together on a similar character study in One False Move. They also briefly had screen time together in Tombstone. ( If you can't figure out who Thornton is in that film, try thinking of Johnny Tyler. He was about 100 pounds heavier than what he is now. ) Raimi and Paxton met on the set of Indian Summer. Raimi had a small role as Stick. So it is kind of nice to see loyalty does perhaps still exist in Hollywood. And I am really glad they met and then hooked up for this project. This is a true definition of a great film.
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10/10
A good solid thriller
MisterWhiplash30 July 2000
Scott B. Smith's A Simple Plan puts Sam Raimi back in my book (I forgot about him for a while after he did EVil Dead and part 2) by giving a good solid thriller that can sometimes be interpreted by some as a very dark comedy. The plot (I think already stated) has 2 brothers and a friend in a winter setting, who find a plane, a plane that can change they're lives (chiching), but the cost, is something they don't even know they are going to bear. Sometimes the characters make dumb choices, but that atually makes it entertaining. The best surprise however is Billy Bob Thornton's performance because he is always good in anything he does. Good film for Raimi to have, and for the cast also. A-
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7/10
The Fargo of the year
Samiam327 December 2009
Sam Raimi may be most at home with Horror, but his body of work in the last three decades has encompassed a variety of genres, the most intellectual of which is drama. One could argue that a Simple Plan is Raimi's smartest picture but it is not a film where we see any of his distinct auteurism. Equal credit for the film's reasonable competence goes to novelist Scott Smith, adapting his own novel for the screen.

The plot bears some close resemblance to Fargo. One could argue that A Simple Plan is a few steps ahead of the Coen Brothers. It feels far less contrived, and has a bigger heart. Fargo is cold, cynical, but definitely creative. Anyway, that is another movie

Three buddies find a plane wreck in the woods, and inside is a sack containing four million dollars. They agree to keep it hidden until they are convinced that the police are not looking for it. Sounds simple enough, but things get ugly pretty quickly.

I've never thought much for either Bill Paxton or Brigit Fonda, but A Simple Plan shows them at their best, although Billy Bob Thornton's is the most accomplished performance of the movie.

The movie is one worth seeing, it is admirable and thought provoking. There is nothing necessarily unique about it, but then again uniqueness is a rare gift for a movie to have.
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10/10
Superb, flawless examination of greed (spoilers inside)
Arkaan5 September 1999
Warning: Spoilers
"You work for the American dream, you don't steal it" Bill Paxton says in the film, and that line rings true until the very end. The plot is simple. Three men find 4.4 million dollars, and decide to keep it. From than on, they remain tied to each other in a crime, yet they see it as "finding lost treasure". As soon as Jacob and Hank kill Stevenson, they are in even deeper.

We (the audience) is asked to accept the fact that these decent people are breaking the law, and sympathize with them. It leads us through plot twists that expand on the film's haunting qualities.

Sam Raimi's direction is incredible, as is Scott Smith's script. I have read the novel, and some things were changed. However, the changes were necessary as some parts of the novel weren't cinematic. The cinematography and score also lend themselves very well.

The performances are all incredible. Billy Bob Thorton should have won the oscar for his thoughtful turn as Jacob, the dumber brother who realizes first that they've opened a Pandora's Box. " I wish someone else found that money". When he said that, it's not just the loss of the money that makes him say that, it's the loss of his soul. He is the first to realize that this will end in tragedy. Bridget Fonda is remarkable in her Lady Macbeth-type role. She's chilling and convincing as the wife who at firsts thinks the money should be burned, than changes her mind. Bill Paxton plays the 'everyman' who is the smarter of the three men who find the money. He is incredible, and holds this film together.

What makes this movie work is that it forces us to ask ourselves questions about our morality. Not everyone will like the ending. I think it is perfect.

Number 2 on my top ten of 1998
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4/10
you bought this as good?
chrispi-28 October 1999
Okay, granted there were some cool things in this movie that I have to give it credit for. Such as the house drinking scene that ends with some fatalities, and Thornton's character in particular. But these are overshadowed by all the bad parts of the movie.

1. Who the heck wouldn't keep $4 million that they found because of ethical reasons? Not many people, and I certainly didn't believe that Hank was one of them.

2. Why does this movie use dumb characters to make dumb decisions to complicate the plot? I realized I disliked this movie when Jacob hits the guy on the snowmobile and then Hank kills him when he realizes that the guy is still alive. Can you say "Out of character?" Why is Raimi presenting us with such a contrived scene that I've seen countless times before as if it's something ingenious that I've never seen before?

3. How can two people (Hank and his wife) go from 1 day not wanting to keep the money, to the next day not really caring too much that Hank killed a guy.

4. What stupid idea is it to go back to the crime scene?

5. Hello? Coroners can easily tell the difference between suffocation versus death by impact.

6. The snow hadn't fallen by the time the cops got to the snowmobile accident. Why didn't they figure anything out?

7. What kind of plot twist is it that the FBI agent didn't show the cop his badge? That's just BAD, BAD, BAD.

8. Wouldn't Hank have put his bullets in the gun while he was alone in the woods?

9. Can we get rid of the in-your-face animal symbolism?

10. I just don't believe that the characters we were presented with in the beginning would have done what they did throughout the movie. Yes, the point is that money corrupts people, but nowhere did I see any character development showing that. All of a sudden the characters were all doing things out of character and I was just supposed to accept it.

I thought this movie was pretty boring. Not only was the story contrived, but it didn't show me anything new at all. If you're going to pick up a contrived plot, and least do something new with it.
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A Great Movie...
MovieAddict201623 January 2004
Warning: Spoilers
"If you found four million dollars, would you keep it or turn it in?" a character asks his wife in "A Simple Plan," which documents the events of two men who choose to do what everyone always says they wouldn't do but probably really would if they were given the chance. What chance? A chance to take four million bucks, without anyone knowing who took it, or even that it was taken at all. It's just a simple plan for a simple event. But simple plans can be disastrous, as "A Simple Plan" tells us, in which two brothers named Hank (Bill Paxton) and Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) discover a duffel bag full of $4,400,000 in a crashed plane sitting out in the middle of an abandoned nature preserve. Do they turn it in? Keep it? In a moment of weakness, they choose to do the latter. Hank's wife, Sarah (Bridget Fonda), is supportive of their decision. She even tells Hank to return some of the money to the plane, to cover their tracks. When Hank does this, it results in the death of a nosy neighbor on a snowmobile. Soon this tragic chain of events slides into even more murder and cover ups as one of Jacob's close friends and his wife die, in short, because of Hank and his brother. The town Chief of Police, Carl, suspects that something fishy is going on. And when an FBI agent comes to town searching for the plane, Hank has to face the facts that the man may not be from the FBI, but instead might be one of two brothers whose ransom money was lost in the plane crash. The film reminds me of the Coen Brothers' amazing "Fargo" in many different ways. Most noticeable is the landscape, as well as the quirkiness of the film that lends a realistic tone to it. Also is the spiraling downfall of the characters -- the events trigger one tragic circumstance after another, eventually turning into murder and double-crossing and greed. Billy Bob Thornton turns in another great performance here as Jacob, the lonely guy who has never kissed a girl but fondly remembers the day that he held hands with a high school babe. His plan is to buy back the family farm that his father once maintained. But underneath Jacob's exterior is a heart with little armor. "I feel evil," he says to Hank after lying to the police about the death of his friend. Hank, played by Bill Paxton, is the prime example of how greed can corrupt a man. When they find the money, it is Hank's firm belief to turn in the cash and report the plane to the police. He is convinced to keep the cash, since it's probably dirty drug money. Soon he is the man who is interested in the money more than anyone else. And by the very end of the film, we realize that sometimes people do the worst things for something they can never even have. Paxton is one of our greatest actors, his credits ranging back to the days of "The Terminator" (1984) and "Aliens" (1986). He's in most of James Cameron's films, including those two mentioned before and "Titanic" and "Ghosts of the Abyss." He's not exactly one of mainstream Hollywood's brightest stars, but here he proves that he can turn in a better performance than some of the highest paid actors (*cough*, Tom Cruise, *cough*) in cinema history. The last fifteen minutes of "A Simple Plan" are tense, exciting and unnerving. This is the type of movie where the hero knows the bad guy is next to him, leading him towards his own death, but can't say anything because then everyone will know that he committed a crime himself. He has to pretend that he doesn't know the bad guy is a bad guy. He has to pretend that everything is all right, even when he's being led into a trap. And when the so-called FBI agent, Hank, Carl and Jacob split up in the woods to search for the plane, I primed myself for what was to come. Is this the type of movie where the hero dies or lives? I won't ruin the surprise. But I think the ending is entirely more meaningful than it could have been if Sam Raimi, the director, had chosen a different route. This is one of the best films of the past decade, and certainly one of the most important. 4.5/5 stars. - John Ulmer
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5/10
I Don't Understand It's Popularity
gbheron4 August 2001
Two critics I usually agree with, James Berardinelli and Roger Ebert, both loved "A Simple Plan". I have never disagreed with them more. To me it's just a so-so "Fargo" knock-off that never rises above "average": an average film-noir melodrama with lots of snow. By the end of the movie, I didn't much care what happened to any of the characters. I

As for it still hanging in to the IMDb Top 250 Movies, I've just done my part to change that.
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When Simple Becomes Complex
Lechuguilla6 April 2008
Three guys stumble onto the wreckage of a small plane that happens to contain a stash of cash. What's "interesting" here is the men's decision-making process, as unforeseen events intervene in their "plan". As their greed overwhelms the men's ethics and common sense, their collective predicament just gets worse, and what seemed so simple at first becomes more and more complex. The plot does contain some unexpected twists and turns. But the overall story is made possible only because the men are so stupid.

Actually, I could not identify with any of them. The Jacob character is totally not consistent from one moment to the next. You get the feeling that his inconsistencies are included as a contrivance to keep the plot moving. Billy Bob's performance renders Jacob annoying and grating after about ten minutes. Bill Paxton seems to be on auto-pilot through most of the film. And the transformation of Bridget Fonda's character is not the least bit believable.

The film's cinematography is competent but conventional. Production design seems low budget to me, but maybe it's because the story takes place in a rural setting.

"A Simple Plan" renders greed a lot less glamorous than society makes it out to be. Perhaps that's the film's saving grace. But the characters are all so simple-minded, so dim-witted, and their decision-making skills so moronic, the story is just not very credible.
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7/10
Not A Message To Be Dismissed
ccthemovieman-15 August 2006
A good beginning gets your attention quickly in this film, but then a bit too talky for a long spell in the middle before momentum is regained. The finale is very interesting.

The story is a good illustration of what greed can do to people, and that crime does not pay. As I was watching it, I thought it was okay film but apparently was better than that because it stayed with me for a while. It's not a film you dismiss right away.

I've never been a big fan of Bill Paxton as an actor, maybe because of his stupid voice. However, I thought he did a fine job in "A Simple Plan." Billy Bob Thornton plays another interesting role, nothing new in that regard and Bridget Fonda is about as unglamorous as you'll ever see her.

This is one of those movies that is better in retrospect and I would gladly watch it again now that it's been awhile since I've seen it.
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1/10
Hollow film experience
Maciste_Brother1 July 2004
A SIMPLE PLAN is one of the most overrated films of all time. The fact that some actually view this film as a serious piece of film-making is truly amazing. Everything about this film is artificial: the characters, the acting, the plot, etc. Usually, genre films can get away with such an artificial feel because they mostly deal with things that don't necessarily exist in real life (zombies, monsters, deformed superheroes, etc) but when you transpose the same techniques used in genre films and apply them to actual human beings living in reality, well, the thing becomes forced and artificial. And this is what the folks responsible for this film, whom have experience in making mostly genre films, have done here. I didn't believe this story for one second throughout the entire film. The characters were amazingly stupid. The "McGuffin" story was uninspired and filled with plot-holes so big that you can fly a jumbo jet through them. And the acting, except for BBT, was unconvincing, certainly Paxton and Fonda playing a couple. Talk about zero chemistry.

But what's really annoying about A SIMPLE PLAN is that it's supposed to be a tragedy of sorts and yet the filmmakers obviously didn't want to make the film too gloomy and depressing as to turn off most of the audience. The end product is saddled with a conflicting and contradicting style/tone. It plays like a harmless & bland TV movie, and yet it strives to be John Sayles or Terence Mallick kind of film with its monolithic seriousness.

There's only one word to describe A SIMPLE PLAN: labored.
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Something is missing...
Decko_koji_obecava24 September 2003
Most of the elements of "A Simple Plan" were adequate. The story carried me along and kept me interested. Cold, snowy and occasionally cerulean Minnesota countryside provided a peaceful backdrop that perfectly contrasted the abundance of dirty, greedy, evil goings-on. Performances were very good. Writing was decent enough. Yet the movie never fully took off due to a lot of 'little' things.

Firstly, it takes itself way too seriously. Part of the reason why "Fargo" (a picture that often comes to mind while watching this) was so appealing was its irreverent, unaware-of-itself, off-the-cuff style. In more than a few scenes of "A Simple Plan" through the frequent use of extreme close-ups, cartoonish makeup and lighting (especially on Bridget Fonda) director Sam Raimi is almost annoyingly shouting at us to sit up straight and prepare to have another ridiculously obvious lesson on morality and human psyche rammed down our throats.

Even the movie's tagline - 'Sometimes good people do evil things' - sounds kind of cheesy.

Additionally, the ending seems tacked on. The sudden introduction of Gary Cole, the lead-up to the showdown and the ensuing shootout simply feel unnatural. Not to mention the twist by which Hank (Bill Paxton) gets to keep the money but then learns the bills' serial numbers have been recorded by the feds who are now waiting for them to surface. And this is what makes Hank decide to burn the dough? I mean, p-leaseeee!!! Throughout the movie, fuelled by his desire to keep this fortune he found a way out of the most impossible situations even if it required him to lie, cheat, plot and kill and then ultimately this technicality is the detail that does him in and makes him give it all up!??

He didn't get a conscience all of a sudden, we know that. He burned the money not because it reminded him of the carnage he left in his wake in order to keep it or something along those lines, but only because he was looking at this seemingly insurmountable 'obstacle' of bills being marked.

I guess the filmmakers or the studio didn't want to show behaviour like this be rewarded or maybe they thought the fact that he lives is enough of a perk. Whatever the thinking and reasoning, it was all very unconvincing.

On the other hand, the most admirable parts include excellent performances from Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, Brent Briscoe and several truly great exchanges between them.

To put it in simple terms - good enough but I wanted more.
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2/10
An idea borrowed by Steinbeck and tortured by "professionals".
grovecamper17 July 2006
I can scarcely believe that any executive producer would want to front any money for a childish rip off of characters and plot dynamics created in "Of Mice and Men". Granted there is little real estate left for an original idea in the story-telling industry, but the incessant make-more-out-it pitch to the studio is what the positive critics must have latched onto when they were being bought off by their fringe-benefit sponsors to write good reviews.

Bugs Bunny did a better job as Lenny(?) than Paxton did as the pseudo intelligent/sensitive older brother who was faced with making all the important decisions up until the end. And Billy "George(?)" Bob Thornton might understand the challenges of the mentally disabled, but he need not agree to portray one whose actions are the sole and unrealistic justification for the murders that artificially drive the story. I wonder if Jane Fonda will ever come to terms with her daughter's incessant "teenage struggle" for identity--Bridget has no on-screen presence let alone chemistry with Paxton who himself seems to have graduated from the Keanu Reeves School of Expressionless and Constipated Acting (they should have been mimes or gone into weightlifting).

The cinematography and editing is juvenile from opening cross fade of the crow and the "hit-me-with-a-hammer" symbolism of the fox in the hen house through what other critics compare "Fargo" with right to the horribly uninventive angles during action or character revelation sequences. The camera was too far away for much of the time for anyone to sympathize with any of these numbskull characters. And for the amount of screen time that the police had in the story, don't you think that any one of the crime scene investigations would have revealed unsubstantiated blood spray patterns or weapons with too few and misplaced fingerprints on them? The underlying tension in this film is clearly the audience's struggle to suspend their disbelief in a story that actually moves slowly enough for some characters to actually figure out "whodunnit". At least we didn't have put to up with an homage to Straw Dogs and have every dummy gang up on one guy and his bimbo wife and have the town blame the "retard".

I give this movie a 2 only because of its seed idea, taken so thoughtlessly from John Steinbeck and plugged into most likely a first novel that was adapted just as badly.

I recommend you watch this film, so that you can see what an all-round poor quality film looks like.
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6/10
Wildly overrated
preppy-318 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Good guy, mild-mannered Hank Mitchell (Bill Paxton), mildly retarded brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) and a drunken friend (Brent Briscoe) find 4 million dollars in a downed plane. They decide to hold on to the money, see if anyone's looking for it and then split it. But things slowly--very slowly--unravel...

I can't figure out why so many people love this. It is well-directed by Sam Raimi (although he overused the black birds to a ridiculous degree) and takes good advantage of the bleak, snowy landscapes...but I found this a crashing bore. The story rambles on far too long; the point of the movie is laughably obvious (money corrupts everything--well duh!) and some crucial performances don't work.

DEFINITE SPOILERS!!! Paxton is a good actor--but his transformation from mild-mannered guy to killer never once rings true. I didn't believe one second of it. Bridget Fonda (as his wife) has the same problem. Her quick transformation rang false. They're both wonderful actors but they can't pull this off for whatever reason. Thornton's character was so pathetic and over the top that I tired of him quickly. Briscoe was just obnoxious. That's another reason I hate this--ALL these characters were just horrible people that you didn't give a damn about. I was anxious to see every last one of the them dead by the end. END SPOILERS!!!

The movie was far too slow and way too long. Most of the footage of Thornton's character babbling nonstop got on my nerves. It gets a 6 only because of the good direction and a few good moments that Paxton and Fonda share--those two really clicked as husband and wife. Also good to see Gary Cole. But this movie was too dull, long and unpleasant for me to recommend.
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8/10
Top 5 Film Class Movies: FILM #2
jmille4229 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
We're up to my second favorite film from class with Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan. The very well told story of a family divided over what to do regarding the recovery of 4 million dollars from a downed aircraft in the remote woods of their small town. Bill Paxton plays the very intelligent Hank Mitchell, a humble man with a decent job and a pregnant wife, Sarah (Bridget Fonda). He is definitely the brains of the operation, having his slow-witted brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) and obnoxious redneck Lou (Brent Briscoe) included in a plan to lay low with the money in case someone else is looking for it. What proceeds them are games of deceit and murder.

There are many different aspects that are enjoyable to this film. The suspense of the story keeps you on the edge of your seat despite no use of flashy special effects. With no visual effects, the acting becomes that much more important. Thornton is my favorite of this film simply because there is no "mildly retarded" role he cannot fulfill with great precision and timing (He made the murderer Carl an American icon in Sling Blade). Jacob may be the long shot of the Mitchell kin, but he ends up being the most admirable of the two brothers. When everyone in the group begins talking about leaving the city and buying new cars, he makes it known he just wants to buy the family farm back. In a time of greed and self-indulgence, it depicts his love and faithfulness to his family (who obviously preferred the company of Hank over himself).

Not one dollar is spent, yet all four start dreaming of the better life that would await them with the money. The greed theme plays out to be the ultimate demise of the common man with even Sarah, who was the voice of reason, violently making it known that she wants her cut of the money. Raimi makes use of the snowy season as his good friends the Coen brothers did for Fargo. The bright white surroundings of the chilly substance goes well with his characters…very cold hearted. When good people begin killing and stealing, it just goes to show that money is the root of all evil.
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Yeah.....TOO simple!
uds324 May 2002
I admire Bill Bob greatly. Paxton has his moments in country hicksville mode, while Bridget Fonda can be a bit of an iffy proposition. All up though, this just didn't cut it for me whatsoever. A film that in totality is considerably less than the sum of its parts!

As first-up reviewer 'Bandguy' of Nashville suggests, I was prepared, and DID watch a group of people reach the end of their rope and make a series of life-changing decisions! Problem was, WHO cares?..I didn't! I was neither moved, emotionally involved, artfully cornered or even casually interested in the fate of these people. Definitely a wannabe thinking person's movie and hell, Sam Raimi is my kinda director but throughout the film's running time I was far more interested with a business contract I'd been trying to put together for a month or so!

Try as one might to WANT to believe these were interesting people facing a problem (of their own making) escalating outside of their control, they just WEREN'T! Agreed, the snow-bound cinematography lent an aura of cool depression and emotional isolation but for all that I wasn't slack-jawed at the limitless talents of the script-writers either.

You want to see searing emotion, desperate pathos and gut-wrenching misery - go watch MIDNIGHT COWBOY. That film has cornered the market in cinematic brilliance and in fact I recall the advance publicity for A SIMPLE PLAN suggesting it was, if not "one of the greatest human dramas ever filmed" a movie that would "stay" with you long after you left the theater.

I forgot about it long before I reached the car!
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6/10
What NOT to do if you find millions of dollars
adamscastlevania217 February 2015
(59%) A largely paint by numbers morality tale in a similar shape to the much better Fargo, featuring a good central performance from Bill Paxton and more than decent support backing him up. The premise is one of such dramatic substance and fuel for "What would you do?" type debate that even a lousy writer such as Skip Woods, or Eli Roth could squeeze at least some intrigue out. Where this does come off the rails a bit revolve around the character's decisions being clearly wrong-footed from the start. And even though the characters featured are supposed to be dimwitted, it still makes for a film that doesn't really push the premise to any real limit because the characters couldn't make more of a hash of things even if they tried. This is still an interesting, well made film, and it's worth a look, but it just doesn't quite make it as a true future classic.
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