If any conclusions are to be drawn from 'A Simple Plan', one could not
just dismiss it as simply another morality play about the darker side of
the human conscience. It shows us more than anything else that every
single human being has the potential for good and/or evil. Of course,
everyone knows that as well but what makes this film so much better than
most morality tales is that the majority of films that showcase good vs.
evil usually have their players rooted in character as the film begins.
Not so with 'A Simple Plan'. The film begins with ordinary people who
possess all the decency you could ask for. Bill Paxton portrays a
family man whose wife (Bridget Fonda) is expecting a baby any day now.
Paxton works at a modest job for modest pay. His older brother (Billy
Bob Thornton) is a screw-up and has an IQ a little below Forrest Gump's
and a personality similar to one of the Newhart show's "Daryl"
brothers. Thornton's best friend (Brent Briscoe), along with the two
brothers, find a bag of money stashed in some plane wreckage and the
total is somewhere around four million dollars.
There is a struggle of wills about what to do with the money. Thornton
and Briscoe want to keep the money but Paxton is all for turning the
money in. He says that you're supposed to work for the American dream,
not steal for it. Paxton eventually agrees to go along with the scheme
of things and keep the money and the three of them all become embroiled
in a quagmire of crime involving greed, deceit and most horrible of all,
murder. Complicating things further is the advice that Fonda gives
Paxton about what her husband should do about covering his tracks so
nothing can be traced back to him. Every shred of advice backfires and
lands the players in this movie further and further into the moral
Now comes the tricky part. How do you make a film like this truly
entertaining? You can't. Director Sam Raimi, known mostly for horror
films makes a horror film of sorts that showcases reality but because
it's real doesn't mean that its enjoyable. Certainly, the film isn't
entertaining from a high powered point of view. It has a deliberate
slow pace and is a film many will want to see only once. This doesn't
mean that it's a bad movie. I am recommending it for two key reasons.
First and foremost, the performance of Bill Paxton. After years of
playing second string supporting characters, he gets the chance to shine
as a leading man in a heavy drama and proves he can handle a monumental
part where he's in 99% of the movie. Next is Billy Bob Thornton. After
turns in 'Sling Blade' and 'Primary Colors' where he demonstrated his
range, he comes across as a never do well simpleton who isn't evil, he's
just lead down its path easily.
Much like 'Fargo', 'A Simple Plan' is set against the winter tundra
backdrop of Minnesota for an even darker and more stark look at the
bleak. Sam Raimi uses a surrounding central theme of visual content in
the form of black crows that encircle many scenes as a metaphor for the
film's tone. There isn't a wasted character in the entire production
and as 'A Simple Plan' draws to a conclusion, it serves not so much as
an entertainment piece as it does a mirror for audiences to take a look
at their own sins and repent for them as they see others in a much
sadder predicament. A standout film that keeps reminding us that no one
is above the moral spectrum of perfection.
OUT OF 5 > * * * 1/2
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Copyright © 2000 Walter Frith