Blood Simple - 1984
Director(s): Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Writer(s): Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Cinematography by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Editor(s): Joel Coen, Ethan Coen and Don Wiegmann
Cast: John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya and M. Emmet Walsh
In 2019 Joel and Ethan, the Coen brothers are one of the biggest household names in Hollywood - perfectly creating a bridge between the indie crowd and mainstream moviegoers. With over eighteen movies to their name, and fourteen Academy Awards nominations (winning four of them), it is impossible for me to think of Hollywood without them existing. However, this was the case in 1985 when the brothers came out of nowhere and planted their flag in the dark humor noir genre, they would perfect for years to come. Let's talk about Blood Simple.
The story follows the whirlwind affair between Abby (McDormand), and Ray (Getz). Abby is married to Julian (Hedaya), a bar owner and boss of Ray. When Julian learns of their affair, thanks to the shifty private detective, Visser (Walsh), he hired - Julian becomes unhinged and asks Visser to kill them as he needs to be away from the situation to establish an alibi, and like any good Coen film, things do not go as planned. The beauty of this script is how little to no fat the story has throughout the runtime - as each scene, action and character moment moves the plot forward. The flow of the story plays out as if the script was not planned out and the events naturally evolved from the decisions made by the characters; making the betrayal of the PI, while surprising, seem unescapable. The Coen's humor is also present, as the film blends dark tense filled sequences with scenes of Visser delivering off-kilter jokes and they never feel out of place.
Quick note: Carter Burwell's score digs into your subconscious and adds to the tension and desperation surrounding each character as the situation keeps getting out of hand.
As for the Coens behind the camera, they show a hunger for creative and inventive visuals that lift the moments they crafted through their writing. The headlights shining through the dark and unpredictable road ahead as Ray and Abby head into an uncertain future. The chaotic camera running towards Abby as Julian last desperate attempt to separate her from Ray is dashed by a well-timed knee. The light from the bullet holes invading the dark room Abby is hiding from Visser being the key-scene that defines the film is by far my favorite.
Blood Simple works because of how deceptively simple it is - as it sticks to the barebone elements that are needed to tell the story and they do it so well that it elevates them past every neo-noir film that came before them and cemented them as voices in Hollywood for years to come. With fantastic performances from France McDormand and Dan Hedaya and a devilishly magnetic one from the eternally sweaty M. Emmet Walsh - the Coens could not have hoped for a better debut film and one that is severely under appreciated.
Blood Simple is Why Love Movies.
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