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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Fargo

Starring: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy
Director: Joel Coen
Rated: R
RunTime: 98 Minutes
Release Date: March 1996
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Suspense, Independent

*Also starring: John Carroll Lynch, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Harve Presnell, John Lynch, Kristin Rudrud, Steve Park, Jose Feliciano

Review by Andrew Hicks
3½ stars out of 4

Joel and Ethan Coen, the Coen Brothers (a.k.a. the Brothers Coen), have brought the world a handful of bizarre yet funny movies, among them BLOOD SIMPLE and RAISING ARIZONA, but none so bizarre or funny as FARGO. Cleverly morbid and supposedly based on a true story, FARGO tells a PULP FICTION-like story of crime gone wrong, when a car salesman with monetary troubles (William H. Macy) hires two criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife and split the ransom money with him.

But things soon go wrong and people end up dead. Macy has no idea how to cover his tracks, Buscemi and Stormare don't get along and to top things off, pregnant police chief Frances McDormand is doing a damn good job of investigating the homicides. McDormand, like all the other actors in the film, does great justice to her quirky character and the bizarre food binges her pregnancy craves. She and the other characters talk in a hilarious Canadian / Super Fans dialect that emphasizes usage of the words "there" and "ya" as punctuation.

The dialect blends with the surroundings -- North Dakota and Minnesota in the dead of winter, where shades of white and gray are the only colors you see outside and everyone plods around in oversized parkas. The snow itself plays an important role in the movie, from the scene where Buscemi buries a briefcase along the side of the road to the scene where McDormand examines three dead bodies in the snow and nonchalantly recreates the crime exactly as it took place.

Although FARGO has only enough plot in its 98 minutes to have comprised one of Tarantino's three PULP FICTION segments, it shares Quentin's love for dialogue. Aside from the unique dialect and usage of phrases like "So you married ol' son- of-a-Gunderson," the Coens drop in a few great scenes that don't have anything to do with the plot, as when McDormand meets a friend from high school who tries to seduce her even though she's married and very pregnant or when Buscemi chews out a parking lot attendant for charging him money even though he only drove through the lot.

It all adds up to an incredibly surreal but entertaining experience that is one of the few truly original movies of the year. Nothing inspires originality like the absurdities of real life, although I'm sure Joel and Ethan added some embellishments of their own to make it an even more compelling story of crime and punishment, for -- and this is the last comparison I'll be making to PULP FICTION -- in the end justice is served to all the wrong doers and McDormand, her work done, is able to crawl back into bed with her husband, the same bed she dragged herself out of in the middle of the night as the crimes began. FARGO is an intricate, full-circle movie for people who enjoy doses of intelligence to go with brutality.

Copyright 1996 Andrew Hicks

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