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A Simple Plan

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: A Simple Plan

Starring: Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thorton
Director: Sam Raimi
Rated: R
RunTime: 121 Minutes
Release Date: December 1998
Genre: Thriller

*Also starring: Brent Briscoe, Bridget Fonda

Review by Walter Frith
3 stars out of 4

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 abyss.

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

Visit FILM FOLLOW-UP by Walter Frith

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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