Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Blood Simple: Dead In The Heart Of Texas

This being my first, fully fleshed movie review (besides the one for Watchmen that I video-taped for the Rotten Tomatoes Show that was almost aired on national television, and almost won me $100, but that they ultimately couldn't use because I taped and uploaded it in Thailand...and that I'm still bitter about), I wanted to run with the theme of 'firsts' and go with the first film from two of my, and now everyone's favorite filmmakers, the brothers Coen.

Blood Simple is old-school film noir spread unevenly over Texas toast with more than a few dollops of grisly, unflinching, comedic murder. It's a pathetic podunk love triangle gone rotten that only the Coens could make you care about. Fresh out of film school, the brothers brought every technique and trick they had learned to the table, and executed them with the taut precision of a Hollywood vet.

The title does not lend itself to the lack of a complex story, but is instead based on a phrase from the 'Dashiel Hammet' (The Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man) novel Red Harvest, in which "blood simple" is a term coined to describe the addled, fearful mindset people are in after a prolonged immersion in violent situations, and buddy, there is plenty of violent situation immersion in this here flick. The film stars John Getz (best known as Christina Applegate's scumbag co-worker in Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead) as Ray, a bartender who falls in love with Abby (Frances McDormand, in her feature film debut), who happens to be married to his boss, Marty (played by Dan Hedaya, better known as the dad in Clueless). Abby reciprocates Ray's affections when he helps her dip town and Marty's clutches, which leads Marty to hire P.I. Loren Visser (played by a diabolically sleazy M. Emmet Walsh , who would've stolen the show had it not been for Fran McDormand's adorable Texas twang), to kill the back-stabbing lovebirds.

In addition to the tangled narrative that is anything but simple, the film is filled with distinct, visual originality, and money-shots a film-school art-house maven might write a thesis about, but that the Coens use with the ease of a close-up: a tense conversation between Ray and Abbey halfway through the film is broken up with succinct and slow-motion suspense of a mere newspaper tossed at the screen door they're standing behind; a scene involving a dark stretch of highway, a stubborn corpse and a shovel, that no doubt inspired a much similar incident in Fargo; Visser, first shooting, then punching through a wall with his left hand, to pry loose the knife stuck in his right hand; the erratic manual track-and-zoom shot that Joel Coen picked up from his buddy Sam Raimi, after working as an editor on Evil Dead; and the funniest use of a cul-de-sac before The Burbs, all make for the most entertaining "art" film I've ever seen. If you've never seen it, or haven't in a long while like me, you have to queue this shit up.

5 out of 5.

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