Thursday, November 10, 2016

Blood Simple

   Some thrillers have characters who make massive assumptions, huge leaps of logic... and by cinematic good will, they just happen to be right. Characters suddenly and inexplicably figure out who the killer is only when it's ultimately crucial, or they remember they had a knife in their pocket that's been there for such a long time you'd think they'd have at least accidentally figured it out before that perfect moment. Blood Simple is not that kind of thriller. It's the kind of thriller where characters make extreme assumptions, as people do, and invariably... they're wrong. This is just part of why Blood Simple is a great movie.

   Characters happen upon the aftermath of specific events, and after assessing the information available to them... they logically deduce what happened. But, Blood Simple creates a chaotic and unpredictable world for these characters to inhabit. Everyone is wrong, nobody knows what's going on, and by the time they do- it's usually too late. This is as realistic as it is wonderfully frustrating in the most entertaining way. A brand of entertainment that the Coen brothers would continue to leave their mark on, over and over. The plot twists, turns, and folds back onto itself, but never complicates. It's a straightforward movie, almost maddening in it's details, but one that never leaves the viewer in the dark.

   Blood Simple isn't just a good thriller though, it's a good-looking thriller too. It's neo-noir trappings are navigated by a restless camera, always moving and sweeping through the scene. Colors and lighting are meticulously controlled, washing the movie in neon hues, or, when we're lucky, a stunning sunset. The movie is vibrant and incredibly alive with color and style. The genre doesn't necessarily require such stunning visuals, but Blood Simple boasts impressive cinematography by one Barry Sonnenfeld himself, who would go on to make a name for himself directing lots of enjoyable popcorn fare. But, his eye and talent brings something special to Blood Simple, and it's impossible to ignore.

   Blood Simple does not feel like a freshman effort. Joel Coen direct the movie with cunning efficiency and surprising confidence. I would not have been able to tell this was the brothers' very first movie just by watching it. It's full of details and tiny objects that end up being relevant in surprising ways. It's a violent little car trunk full of blood, bullets, and all kinds of lurid messiness. The cast is fantastic as well, featuring a fresh faced Francis McDormand, a surly and sinister M. Emmet Walsh, and a particularly creepy Dan Hedaya. They all turn in compelling performances, but while Dormand was endearing and easy on the eyes, it was Walsh who stole the show.

   There's no time like the present seeing as how you can get the Criterion Collection release of Blood Simple on DVD or Blu Ray from Barnes & Noble, for half price. We're smack in the middle of their annual Criterion 50% off sale. If you wanna grab more than one title, Blood Simple would make a hell of double feature with either Thief or Blow Out, two more stylish and all-around excellent crime thrillers. In short, I was completely taken with Blood Simple. It's truly a great movie, and a perfect example of what's possible in the genre. From the opening credits to the ending credits, every moment is dripping with importance and seems crafted with the most meticulous care. I loved it. Definitely recommended.

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