Blood Simple (1984) Poster

(1984)

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8/10
Try to watch this without talking to the characters...
bross321 April 2000
I think this film, probably more than any other, causes me to talk to the characters on the screen in an exasperated way--something akin to the way you want to yell at the characters in a slasher movie not to run outside to investigate sounds.

The only difference is that this film is fantastic, whereas cheap slasher movies are not. Blood Simple is emotionally involving and the suspense is played to perfection. While the characters are completely clueless as to what has gone on around them, we know everything. What we don't know is what the characters are going to do next.

As in every Coen film, things quickly get out of control. Some people have commented that the characters here acted unbelievably, but I'd have to say that when you think about their situations, the reactions are completely compatible with the way the characters are set up. The problem is that nobody knows what's going on except the viewers.

Coen fans will notice many recurring themes from their other films (especially Fargo and The Big Lebowski) such as the use of headlights, passing motorists witnessing a crime, shower curtains and bathroom windows, detectives driving VW beetles, husbands hiring the wrong people to carry out a crime... I had a longer list in mind earlier while watching it but I've forgotten some. It's almost like these films all go together as a series of films depicting how similar situations would end up in different locations in America.
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9/10
First outing for the Coens is an outstanding 80's film noir thriller
AlsExGal24 July 2015
This is the Coen brothers' directorial film debut, and not only is it different from most other films in the Coens' catalog of work, it is just a different kind of film altogether. With a budget of just a little more than one million dollars and four main characters, the Coen brothers created a film noir thriller 35 years after the genre had expired. In this film the Coens demonstrate that if you have a conscience, a killing can be hard to carry out, but regardless of whether or not you have a conscience, a killing is hard to get away with.

Throughout the film, as is true in many film noirs, the audience is kept aware of most of what is really going on, which is a grand misunderstanding with very tragic consequences. The four characters are all being misled by the incomplete part of the jigsaw puzzle that each of them possesses. The setup is simple enough: Ray is having an affair with Abby, wife of his evil boss Marty. Marty gets angry about the situation and decides to pay a private eye to murder both of them. Things proceed to go as badly as possible for everyone from that point on as each of our characters are mainly motivated by mistrust - even the young lovers Ray and Abby.

What makes Blood Simple different from other Coen brothers films is he complete lack of humor throughout the entire film. Even the bleak "Fargo" is sprinkled with humor throughout. Equally noticeable is the cold remoteness that fills every square inch of this film which includes everything from Abby's Texas-sized apartment, to the flat open stretches of Texas landscape. This cold remoteness just seems to magnify the quiet terror of what is going on. For in this movie, the spilling of blood isn't clean, easy, or free of emotional consequence. For example, when one character is in the process of burying the "body" of someone he believed had been murdered by someone else, he finds out, much to his surprise, that the person is actually still alive. Now faced with the "necessity" of killing this person to cover up the crime, he finds the task impossible to do in a clean quick way - with a rifle. As a result, he winds up actually killing the person in the most horrible way possible - by simply ignoring the fact that he is still alive and burying him anyway - all because he is too queasy to commit the overt act of shooting someone himself. As we witness the sun come up on a day bereft of the life of the deceased and the entombment complete, it's very relieving to remember it's only a movie.

None of this is to say that Blood Simple isn't an enjoyable film. Seeing the characters and their lives come apart one by one will keep you riveted to your seat. We already know "who done it," we're just hanging around to see if the other characters figure out not only "who done it", but what it is that has been done in the first place. All the cast members were great and Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, and M. Emmett Walsh have gone on to bigger and better things since this movie was made. I just wonder what happened to John Getz, since he performed just as well as the other three only to remain largely unknown. With the exception of a small part in the remake of "The Fly" in 1986, I can't think of another film in which I've seen him.

In summary, the best thing about Blood Simple is that even if we always know what's happening, we never know what's going to happen next up to the very end. Highly recommended.
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8/10
Texas noir
bat-528 March 2000
Blood Simple is pure Coens. There are the usual bag of cinematic tricks, the twisting storyline, the seamy characters, and the occasional droplet of dark humor. The story concerns a bar owner who thinks his wife is cheating on him. He hires a sleazy private investigator to find out, and when he learns the truth, he wants them dead. Trouble is, things get kind of complicated when a murder occurs. The film creates a palpable feeling of tension, where you don't know what to expect next. Half the fun of this film is trying to figure out what will happen. A true testament of the well sturctured nature of the film, is the fact that there are only four main characters, and they hold your attention till the very end. And in traditional film noir fanfare, all of these characters have some sort of sordid business to attend to. The Coens drew on their experiences on Blood Simple and made the similar, but very different, Fargo. Watch Blood Simple for a good old fashioned film noir that will keep you guessing.
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10/10
The Coens' first great piece of cinema
MaxBorg8916 July 2008
As far as directorial debuts go, few are as ambitious and inventive as the Coen brothers' first film, Blood Simple, as it mixes genres and moods in a way that anticipated Tarantino's similar experiments by a decade, while still retaining an apparent simplicity, both narratively and formally, that few people originally saw as the beginning of one of American cinema's most extraordinary careers.

Set in a stark Texas landscape, Blood Simple opens on a premise that seems to be borrowed from the likes of Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings Twice: someone steals another man's wife. However, the two adulterous lovers (Jamie Getz and Frances McDormand) do not plan to assassinate the betrayed husband (Dan Hedaya). On the contrary, he hires a sleazy PI (M. Emmett Walsh) to spy on them to carry out some twisted plan of his own. That is, until the investigator goes rogue and the situation escalates in the most grotesque of ways.

This escalation is matched by the Coens' constant shifts between genres, achieved through lighting, music and camera movements. Noir, straightforward thriller, horror, black comedy: Blood Simple is each of these and all of them at once, but the transition is never forced or unnatural; in fact, these transitions occur because somehow the story itself demands that they happen. In a way, this is a film that is aware of its own fictitious nature and toys with it as much as possible - because it can. This has since become a trademark of the two brothers, and it is as fresh and original now as it was back in 1984.

The same can be said of the four main actors: Getz and McDormand (soon to be Mrs. Joel Coen) form a solid leading couple, thoroughly menaced by the sudden ferocity of Hedaya, then best known for playing Rhea Perlman's dim-witted ex-husband on Cheers (an image he gladly, and expertly, reverses here). And then there's Walsh, who takes his practically identical role in Blade Runner and increases the character's unlikability, turning in one of the most brutally charming villainous performances of the '80s (and of the Coen canon).

Joel and Ethan Coen had a very clear idea of what they wanted to achieve in the movie business from the get-go, and Blood Simple is one of the best examples of this: for 90 minutes, it takes you to a whole new world, one that most people are happy to revisit as often as they can.
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9/10
Memorable Modern Noir
ccthemovieman-18 November 2005
This was the Coen Brothers first movie and I think it might rank second-best to more-famous "Fargo."

This is suspenseful neo-noir (modern-day film noir) filled with fun direction by the Coens: low camera angles, closeups, concentration of sounds such as the whirring of an overhead fan, some dramatic pauses, strange characters and even stranger events taking place. The only thing missing I'd like to have is 5.1 surround sound.

Warning: some bloody scenes in here are downright gross, but they sure produce some memorable scenes.

Character-wise, Dan Hedeya proves to be the toughest man to kill I've ever seen in a movie! Frances McDormand is young and looks pretty, the best I've ever seen her look. John Getz's character is strange and sometimes to frustrating to watch and Emmet Walsh is outstanding at playing the sleazy private detective. Those four, along with Samm-Art Williams, comprise almost all the speaking parts in this film.

This is an involving movie. Once started, you're hooked on this strange story. I wish the Coens would have made more movies like this.
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9/10
brilliant noir
robertsguenther26 August 2004
This film is the Coen brothers' homage to the great noir thrillers of the golden age. Cheating spouses, feckless private dicks, mistaken identities, a bundle of dirty cash are rendered to their bare essence in the mess of rotting fish sitting on Marty's desk. The film is notable as much for the audacity of the Coen brothers in getting it made as it is for its success in turning the broad, open expanses of west texas into a claustrophobia unknown even to Saddam in his spider hole. It appears the Coens made five minutes of the film to show to investors, though they had absolutely no idea what the rest of the film would look like. They basically sold the mood of the film, and their efforts bore fruit. The film established the Coen brothers as a creative force and Frances McDormand as a rising art house star whose journey would eventually garner Oscar for the Coens' "Fargo." I rate it highly for visual appeal, intelligent story and good sheer suspense and terror.
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8/10
A Dark Little Gem
gbheron12 September 1999
The Coen Brothers first commercial film tells a noirish tale of murder, double-cross, and betrayal in small town America. A greasy small-town Texas saloon owner discovers his wife is having an affair with one of his bartenders. He hires the private detective that documented the affair to kill the couple. But the PI has different plans, and then everything starts going wrong, very wrong. The acting is great especially M. Emmett Walsh as the double-crossing PI. The direction and camera work presage the Coens subsequent work.

This movie is a treat of a rental if you can find it. It's worth looking for.
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7/10
A stylish film noir…
Nazi_Fighter_David11 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The basic fact (a Texan bar-owner is betrayed by the private detective he hires to murder his faithless wife and her lover) is transformed by an imaginatively tortuous script into a clever, almost farcical study of humans forever misinterpreting each other's actions…

While the audience understands what is happening, the characters, their perceptions distorted by suspicion, fear and jealousy, strike in the dark and destroy friends, enemies and themselves… Murder, too, is a dirty, protracted business – one character is even buried alive – just as, in the Coens' irredeemably seedy Texas, the corrupt private eye (marvelously played by M. Emmett Walsh) sweats continuously…
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9/10
Visual Flair, Quirky Characters & Offbeat Humour
seymourblack-116 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The first offerings of most filmmakers provide an interesting indication of the directions in which their future output is likely to develop. "Blood Simple" on the other hand is an example of a fully realised entity which contains so many of the qualities and stylistic touches which are now synonymous with the Coen Brothers' entire body of work that it's evident just how clear a vision they had of what they wanted to achieve right from the very start. For their debut, they brought to the screen a stereotypical film noir which contained familiar ingredients and themes, such as murder, betrayal, corruption, deceit, double crosses and plot twists and added black humour, gruesome violence and some compellingly eccentric characters.

The movie has a strong visual style which is produced by clever use of light, shadows and colour and also a variety of typical film noir camera angles. The disconcerting mood which this creates is also further enhanced by the predominantly laconic interactions between the characters and the fact that everyone in the movie is distrustful of everyone else. The screenplay is excellent and the amount of suspense and intrigue generated makes the story intense and very engaging throughout.

Texas bar owner Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) harbours suspicions about his wife Abby (Frances McDormand) and hires seedy private detective Loren Visser (M.Emmet-Walsh) to follow her. When Visser's investigations reveal that Abby is having an affair with one of Marty's employees, a barman called Ray (John Getz), Marty responds by offering Visser $10,000 to kill the couple. The private detective subsequently doctors a photograph he'd taken of Abby and Ray together to give the appearance that they'd been killed and meets with Marty to collect his money. Marty accepts the photograph as authentic and duly pays Visser his fee. When the transaction is complete, Visser promptly shoots Marty in the chest and leaves the gun (which belongs to Abby) close by.

The circumstances of Marty's murder lead to a sequence of misunderstandings and complications. Initially when Ray arrives at the crime scene and sees Abby's gun, he quickly deduces that she must've killed her husband and so he tries to cover up her crime. He moves the body which he intends to bury, into his car and drives down a highway but discovers that Marty (who had appeared to be dead) is still living. Ray goes ahead anyway and buries Marty alive.

Later, when Ray tells Abby what he's done to protect her and she doesn't understand, he assumes that she's being deceitful and this impression is reinforced sometime afterwards when she takes a silent telephone call which he assumes is from another lover. When Abby goes to the bar to check on what Ray has told her, she gets the impression that he must've gone to see Marty and got involved in a fight over the amount of wages which were due to him.

More serious trouble for the couple develops, however, when Visser realises that he's left a clue to his guilt at Marty's bar and sets about tying up all the loose ends. This involves the planned elimination of Abby and Ray and eventually brings the action to its gripping and very original climax.

Ray's an extremely familiar type of noir character as he's an ordinary guy who's unwittingly drawn into a situation which he doesn't understand, where events go increasingly out of control and where he isn't able to do anything to prevent matters from getting even worse. John Getz is suitably unpretentious in this role and conveys his character's bewilderment and growing sense of anxiety with great skill. Frances McDormand is also wonderfully understated as the adulterous Abby who's similarly baffled by what happens and frequently misunderstands what's going on.

Julian Marty is emotionally wounded, bitter and jealous and his powerful need for revenge drives him to seek the most violent and permanent solution possible. This is rather ironic considering his evident distaste for the course of action he's chosen and also the fact that he becomes physically sick on seeing Visser's photographs. Dan Hedaya portrays Marty's complex mixture of emotions very convincingly in a performance which contributes strongly to the success of the film.

The stand out performance of the movie is provided by M.Emmet-Walsh who, as the sly, sweaty and totally unscrupulous private detective exudes a brand of wickedness which conveys forcibly the thoroughly despicable nature of his character. His complete lack of morality also makes him very comfortable in his own skin and this quality together with his often jovial demeanour make him particularly disturbing and fascinating. Emmet-Walsh's ability to capture the whole range of this villain's characteristics is extremely impressive and compelling.

Considering its low budget and the Coen Brothers' lack of experience at the time when the film was made, "Blood Simple" is an extremely enjoyable and good quality movie.
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Texas Is a Five-Letter Word Too.
tfrizzell16 June 2005
Demented and dominant directorial debut for Joel Coen as he and brother/co-writer Ethan Coen weave a film noir-styled tale of bad coincidences and worse planning. Sound familiar? In a bleak Texas landscape the wife (Frances McDormand) of a bar owner (Dan Hedaya) has a torrid affair with one of her husband's employees (John Getz). Hedaya hires mysterious private investigator/windbag M. Emmet Walsh to spy on the duo and then re-hires him to kill the adulterers. Naturally though nothing is as simple or clear as it seems. An excruciatingly dull start takes a backseat finally to a tense little tease of a film that benefits from a deliberate pace and a haunting musical score. "Blood Simple" is so well realized that it would have worked just as effectively as a silent flick. The dialogue is just a distraction to the picture's creepy atmosphere and enigmatic Texas landscape. Walsh, always known as a character actor, dominates most within the production's unique ensemble. Could be called "Pre-Fargo". 4 stars out of 5.
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amazing debut
ginger_sonny31 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
The Coen brothers' magnificent feature film debut

Scumbag private eye Walsh plans the perfect crime when he's hired by a Texan bar owner to kill his wife (McDormand) and her lover (Getz). But the ploy to fool his employer with mocked up photographic evidence goes spectacularly awry when his shortcut is discovered, and Walsh is forced to knock off the adulterous couple after all.

Jet-black, wickedly funny and driven by an ingenious plot, the film holds all the clues to the Coens' peerless future, including bizarre deaths, itching paranoia and Walsh's delicious performance of sweat-stained villainy.
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A great early Cohen film where the claustrophobic heat and tension seep from the screen
bob the moo27 May 2002
Abby is cheating on husband Marty with his employee Ray. Unbeknownst to them, Marty has had the pair followed and caught in the act by an odious private detective. With Marty rejected he turns to the detective with an offer of money to kill the cheating lovers and dispose of the bodies. The detective accepts and, with Marty out of town to ensure an alibi, the plan seems so clear and simple to execute. However, where blood is involved, nothing ever runs smoothly or simple.

Watching No Country for Old Men recently put me in mind of Blood Simple and gave me an excuse to watch it again for the first time in about a decade. I was glad that I did because, although it is very slimmed down, all the themes and standards that continue with the Cohen brothers down the years. The film is a modern noir-ish crime thriller with a contained set of circumstances bringing death and ruin to all involved. The story is engaging but it does have holes within it but they are not serious enough to affect the flow. What carries it through everything though is the visual style and feel given to the film by the Cohen's. From the opening sequence in the car to the ever present roar of the incinerator to the sweating, cackling presence of the detective, the sparse dialogue just doesn't matter because of the delivery. As with No Country, you can feel the oppressive heat and tension in each scene and it makes for a satisfying film.

The cast play to this heat and tension with contained but tense performances. The standout is Walsh, whose sweaty moral void is the heart of the film. Hedaya is almost as good in a smaller role. The two "lead" characters suffer a little from being less interesting but nevertheless both Getz and McDormand are good. Blood Simple is a tight and short film with limited dialogue and little in the way of quick action. However what it does have is a wonderful sense of Texas and crime. The slow pace adds to the claustrophobic feel of heat, which in turns adds to the tension and the constant presence of death in the air. Amazing to think the Cohen brothers started getting it so right so early in their careers.
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7/10
Stylish Thriller.
rmax30482326 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
An early effort by the Coen brothers, this is a little like a short story stretched out to feature length but executed with so much suspense and panache that it hardly registers that we are on the scenic route rather than the expressway.

Briefly, Frances McDormand, the wife of the moody and embittered Dan Hedaya, is having an affair with John Goetz, an employee of Hedaya's night club in Texas. Hedaya discovers the tryst through the services of the fat, wheezing, repulsive, but compliant private eye, M. Emmet Walsh.

Hedaya confronts McDormand in her house of adultery and tries to drag her out to his car. McDormand is a tough babe though. She bites his index finger, spins around and kicks him firmly in the jewels. This comes close to being a cliché in scenes in which strong women are attacked by brutal men, and the scripts ordinarily call for the man to groan and clutch his groin for a moment before springing back to the attack. Not here. Hedaya is positively disabled, falls to his knees in pain, struggles back to his feet, stumbles towards his car, down on his knees again, and vomits.

That little scene, in which most of our expectations are violated, is emblematic of the whole film. Nothing goes quite the way it was planned or the way we expect it to. A body that has been shot and remained motionless for hours in a pool of blood comes back to life unexpectedly. But not the way it's usually done, for shock value, as in so many slasher movies.

At any rate, Hedaya re-hired Walsh to kill the pair of sinners and dispose of their bodies. Instead, Walsh double-crosses Hedaya and shoots him with McDormand's little revolver, leaving the weapon behind as a frame. Goetz discovers the body and the gun and, believing that McDormand was the shooter, disposes of Hedaya's half-dead body by burying it alive. I'll skip the ending.

The Coen brothers have found themselves an honest and original style. And it IS original because it flies in the face of modern trends towards loud musical scores, instantaneous editing, wobbling cameras, shock cuts, lots of gutsy physicality, and a general sense of chaos. The pace is leisurely. Attention is paid to details, sometimes relevant (a forgotten cigarette lighter), sometimes not (the brass object on which a cigarette is stubbed out). But all add to the overall ambiance, with an effect similar to Hitchcock's but done quite differently. The art director should get a prize, but so should many other elements -- photography and lighting in particular. What I'm trying to get across is the notion that this -- and the Coen's subsequent films -- seems made for an adult audience rather than a horde of popcorn-eating, energy-drink-imbibing post adolescents. THAT audience will sit aghast during the climactic violence and wonder why they don't see any exploding squibs and why the accompanying score consists only of a muffled Mexican song from next door rather than some electronic, neuron-numbing, percussive assault.

Since 1984, the Coens have had some ups and some downs. (The ups include the near-masterpiece "Fargo".) None of them have been less than interesting. They're a modest, shambling sort of team, the Coens, and judging from the way they look today, they must have been about nine years old when they made "Blood Simple." They're among the most individualistic and innovative writers and directors working today.

See it.
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7/10
The Assumptions
jeeap29 June 2018
We're dealing with other persons assuming something. It's always the case but sometimes it drops beyond even our low standards. Than we have a complete mess. This story is a perfect example of it. The characters don't talk much to each other, they study the environment instead to find out what they want to know. They think it's more trustworthy. And then they make conclusions based on what they found. Indeed, this is a sad story of misunderstanding and mistrusting. Excellently told with a lot of art-cinema stuff.
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9/10
Dan Hedaya was robbed. He should have been nominated for an Oscar for his role
Ed-Shullivan28 March 2018
The Cohen brothers did a marvellous job in delivering a suspenseful film noir in which a tavern owner named Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) is betrayed by his wife Abby (Frances McDormand) who is having an extra marital affair with one of Julian's tavern employee's named Ray (John Getz). Julian wants to confirm his suspicions so he hires an overweight and slimy private detective named Loren Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) to follow his wife Abby to see if she is in fact involved in a sexual relationship with Ray.

Not only does Loren Visser confirm Julian's worst suspicions about his wife Abby's sexual relationship with Ray, Loren gleefully provides to Julian some compromising photographs of Abby and Ray that take Julian by surprise and lead to his wanting to confront his wife Abby about her affair. Julian's reaction to seeing those dirty photos sends him over the edge and when his attempt to physically pull Abby out of the arms of her lover Ray fails, Julian reluctantly seeks the assistance of the slimy private detective Loren Visser once again. Julian wants Loren Visser to murder his wife Abby and her lover Ray and do away with their bodies where no one will ever find them.

The plot thickens and the four main characters in this Cohen brother film noir being Abby (Frances McDormand), her lover Ray (John Getz), Abby's revenge filled husband Julian (Dan Hedaya), and the overweight slimy Private Detective Loren Visser (M. Emmett Walsh) who Julian hires carry this film from beginning to end with a generous amount of intrigue sprinkled in as well as to whom really betrays whom.

This is in my humble opinion an under rated film noir and respecting of more recognition than the over rated (1990) Millers Crossing. I thought Dan Hedaya's portrayal of the tavern owner Julian Marty whose employee barman and wife are having an illicit affair right under his nose and in his attempt to seek revenge results in his own destruction is poignant. The betrayal by all four of the key characters is what makes this Cohen brothers film deserving of belonging in the criterion collection.

I give this fast paced film noir a nine (9) out of ten (10) rating. Dan Hedaya was definitely robbed and should have been Oscar nominated for either a Best Actor or at least Best Supporting Actor for his emotional and vengeful portrayal of Julian Marty.
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9/10
hilarious. astounding.
onepotato26 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Ugh. So much griping about what this movie isn't! "It's not a good thriller" "It's not suspenseful" "I like Fargo better" Bring your genre recognition and creative constraints to movies whose scripts never passed through a working brain. There are plenty to choose from.

Thriller? mystery? love triangle..? Who cares? This is simply a good film. I don't care if I can tell you what genre it is. If you like passive viewing this isn't for you. When you kvetch about B.S., all it does is indicate you were a late-comer to the Coens and saw them in non-chronological order after seeing Fargo. I'm so sorry for you.

Boring performances? Not in my opinion. I'm relieved (delighted!) that it's not an "actors" movie with people method-ing up the plot. And I certainly don't watch it to vicariously feel anyones emotions. Pricey & needy name actors would have ruined this movie. (As in Ladykillers) Who cares if they're subdued? It's not about the perfs, it's about the thought you as a viewer bring to it. This is a "post-Method" movie and it's extremely clever and deep.

Plot too intricate? It's less complex than it appears, and much easier to understand than some piece of convoluted tripe like Mission Impossible. SPOILER: The double-cross begins in mid-conversation in M. Emmett Walsh's VW bug.

For me, the pacing is perfect. Any ten minutes of this movie is more thoughtful than plenty of other movies with frantic activity trying to hide their facile nature (Minority Report, O Brother, etc. etc. ad nauseum.) And I do not enjoy any of the fussy, formulaic follow-ups the Coens made after this.

The joy of this movie is watching characters 'complete the picture' incorrectly, and then take action in a way that will be painfully consistent with their assumptions. The movie paints the world as a chilly machine with parts set in motion by human idiocy, and implicates a God indifferent to all manner of human suffering. All of which should sound familiar to anyone who's read Mark Twain's The Mysterious Stranger.

The spare conceits of this movie are perfectly scaled. It has a minimalist score with some very nice music cues; and three or four sweet camera tricks so quietly inserted that you might miss them, which make me smile.
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9/10
You know in Greece they cut off the head of the messenger who brought bad news.
Spikeopath14 March 2012
Blood Simple is directed, written and produced by Joel and Ethan Coen. It stars John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, M. Emmet Walsh and Samm-Art Williams. Music is scored by Carter Burwell and cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld.

Suspecting his wife of having an affair with one of his bartenders, Texas bar owner Julian Marty (Hedaya) hires sleazy Private Investigator Loren Visser (Walsh) to find the proof. When that proof comes, a deal is struck to have the unfaithful couple killed, but this is merely the start of a sequence of events that prove that when blood is shed unlawfully, things are never simple.

The Coen brothers announced themselves to the cinematic world in 1984 with this deadly neo-noir of some narrative substance, that's in turn resplendent with technical smarts. Taking their cue from the edgy film noirs of yesteryear, the Coen's wrap their own original bent for off kilter cinema around the vagaries of the human condition. The story always remains interesting throughout, continually keeping the viewer on their toes, managing to remain easy to understand, logical; and this in spite of some required convolution. Humid atmospherics are drip fed into the production, pulsing ceiling fans, seedy motel rooms, barely lighted highways and faces half bathed in shadow, Sonnenfeld's photography belying the low budget afforded production.

The characters themselves are soon submerged in a world of misunderstandings, double crosses and murder, this as Carter Burwell lays a score over it that blends a slow piano death rattle with low base throbbing, invoking images of some down on his luck gangster from the 30s lamenting on a bar stool in some back street Speakeasy. Cast are uniformly excellent, but Walsh just about steals it with sleaze, greed and cold blood running through Visser's veins. The brothers Coen show some of what would become their trademark body bag humour, while some scenes have a disgustingly cruel (gleeful) edge to them. Script is as tight as a duck's bottom, with dialogue often sardonic, and the final 15 minutes of film, practically dialogue free, is a masterpiece of tension building.

Quite a debut indeed. Essential neo-noir and not to be missed by those with a kink for such occasions. 9/10
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Good Study
tedg25 January 2005
The Coens are like Soderbergh, they alternate between risky adventures and "commercial" projects. Only in the Coens' world, it is not so much a matter of commercialism but a matter of respect for the genre. Half of their films are profoundly layered, with a typical genre at the "bottom" and all sorts of annotation and commentary in layers on the top.

Its the same in abstract painting, the real stuff that is: to be good at distancing yourself from representational art, you have to master it before you leave it. So the Coens work on mastering a genre before they extend it (and goof all over it).

Naturally, their first project is a straight genre picture. Naturally, it is good (even excellent in its class), if not particularly novel.

Noir is an abused term. I think there are only two notions that are necessary. The first is the existence of a capricious fate, producing coincidences that toy with humans (usually humans). The second is the placement of the viewer (via the camera) in some sort of conspiracy with this fate. In some nefarious way, the viewer _causes_ some of these.

You'll have to decide whether a noir film made after the period in which it was developed can be enjoyed in the same way. It does necessarily carry some distance, the study rather than the intuition. But the hardest thing in noir is ending. These guys do it as perfectly as I know: the last vision of a dying man, watching something inconsequential but inevitable.
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3/10
Garbage packaged as Art
GideonPope30 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILERS EVERYWHERE . . .

I gave this movie a 3 because, unlike some other flicks by these guys, I didn't find the movie unwatchable - I just found it incredibly dull.

In about 20 or 30 years a new generation of movie watchers will pick up this movie, and others from the Brothers, and will wonder, "geez, out parents must have been completely insane."

Like when you look back at original Dragnet episodes and you practically pee yourself they're so stupid. But back in the 50s they were considered spectacular.

This move was terrible. There seems to be a contingent of people out there who see a movie like this and find artsy reasons to like it. They like the camera angles, the "cinematography", the "noir", and other words that have nothing to do with the story itself.

If that's your idea of a great film, then you might love this film.

My idea of a great film is - a great story told well.

This story was silly. The story was, ironically, simple. Too simple. While the writers seemed to have strained to make the story intricate, it was about as intricate as a Scooby Doo episode.

Here is the story in about 5 sentences - Bar owner's wife sleeps with Bar owner's bartender. Bar owner attempts to hire local hick to kill bartender and wife. Hick only pretends to kill bartender and wife, and then, after collecting the money, kills bar owner. Bartender finds body of bar owner and thinks wife did it, and so bartender tries to hide the bar owner's body. Unfortunately, the Bar owner is not dead, so bartender buries him alive. Hick comes back to try to kill bartender and wife to recover evidence linking himself to bar owner's murder, but instead only kills bartender - wife survives. The End. Thank you - I saved you a few bucks and a few hours.

The bar owner is Carla's husband from Cheers - a HORRIBLE actor, and not convincing as the burned husband. The bartender is not interesting. The wife, who was great in Fargo, was so-so. The Texas hick played the part fine, it just was not interesting.

In sum, I was not surprised or impressed by any part of the movie. The plot was silly and impossible, the characters were boring and behaved irrationally from start to finish, and the murders were stupid and uninteresting.

Further, there is only about a gallon of blood in the human body. The bar owner lost about 15 gallons of blood in the horribly slow 40 minutes that he was dying and then being buried alive.

Further, bartender buries bar owner in the middle of a plowed farm field. They keep showing a shot from a helicopter of the car in the middle of the dirt field. This must have been one of the great artsy moments that I didn't appreciate. What I did appreciate was how ridiculously asinine it would be for a criminal to drive two tire tracks to the middle of a plowed field, bury a body, and then drive away, with a farm house a few hundred yards away. I mean how long would it be before the farmer got curious and followed the tracks to the place where there's a bunch of footprints and a 6' hand dug area?

I mean, DUH? That right there is stupid as all get out. People bury bodies in the woods for a reason.

This movie was too dumb to be interesting. The story was simple, the acting, so so, and the artsy stuff that so many people seem to thing made this movie something more than a borderline B-movie murder non-mystery - it evades me completely - I guess I must just not be artsy enough.
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1/10
I guess everybody's gotta start somewhere
acidsores17 August 2004
This was one of the worst movies in recent memory. For a movie that David Ansen of Newsweek calls "The most inventive and original thriller in many a moon." it was awfully bland and lackluster. Not a very good or original plot or script and the poor acting and editing was unfortunate. There were a few attempts at "artsy" and "original" camera work, but they were obvious and too deliberate. It is a run of the mill B-murder-mystery without any mystery. It ends with such a mildly ironic twist that i was left wondering if it was really any twist at all. Now I love the Cohen Bros films because of the fun quirks, strong and interesting characters, strange and thoughtful stories, plot twists, and the often masterful nature of the totality of the final product, But you will find none of that here. It was the Cohen Bros first movie, so perhaps the criticism is a little harsh, but i'm not so much concerned with the Cohen bro's feelings as I am with preventing anyone reading this from wasting three of their hard earned dollars.
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6/10
A darker, more brooding affair than the directors' usual fare, this is an often slow thriller that has a few stand-out scenes of pure tension.
Pjtaylor-96-13804430 April 2018
The Coen Brothers' first foray into feature film is a darker, more brooding affair than usual. 'Blood Simple. (1984)' features less fanciful dialogue and more slow-burning tension and when it works, it really works. Its blistering, nail-biting finale is a real highlight of the piece, as well as the eclectic directors' career. Often there are long stretches where I was honestly starting to get a little bored, though. This is down to is mostly down to a lax pacing that give the flick a laid-back and loose feel but contributes to a lull in excitement on more than one occasion. Still, the moments that stand out are really good. 6/10
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8/10
In the heart of Texas. . . some corpses just don't stay dead. . . forever!
asifahsankhan24 July 2017
"Blood Simple" may be a low-budget affair, but the casting of great character actors like M Emmet Walsh and Dan Hedaya wring true tension out of this film. As has become commonplace on their projects, the brothers Joel and Ethan Coen write, produce, and direct this film.

Dan Hedaya plays a brooding and bitterly jealous bar owner who wreaks revenge on his wife and lover by arranging to have them killed. Hired for the job is the sleazy laughter-racked private eye Walsh, who seems forever to be attracting flies.

Deception appears to run deep in the heart of Texas and some corpses don't stay dead forever. A satisfying plot of twists and vicious black humour unravels to a tense conclusion with the assembled cast clearly revelling in their roles.

The pace can at times be a touch slow, but it's easy to see why the Coens allow certain scenes to simmer, especially when their actors are chewing up the screen as they do. They alone maintain the interest but Barry Sonnenfeld's cinematography defies the low budget, turning this into a stylish-looking thriller that boasts many clever shots.

Intriguing, clever, and often surprisingly funny there's plenty to please in this thriller, that remains fresh and original even today.
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9/10
A movie I can watch again and again
acromegalix3 May 2017
I saw Blood Simple in 1984 and it became immediately one of my favorite movies. I watched it a lot of times since and always found new subtleties at each viewing. Though it could maybe bore people that are used to more mainstream Coen movies, Blood Simple is a remarkable piece of indie art, with a surprising maturity for a first try. Every shot, every editing, every line, every set is skillfully designed with an obvious talent that transcends the classic Noir mainframe. With its hypnotizing pace and music, it delivers a really original experience that gets better and better with time. Even if their later work was always OK (even if I'm really not a fan of their burlesque approach of comedy) the Coen brothers have never been more inspired and inventive than on their three first movies. I hope you'll enjoy Blood Simple as much as I do !
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7/10
Auspicious debut for the Coen brothers.
gdematties10 July 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The Coen Brothers initial foray into feature films, "Blood Simple." is a great little bit of noir, which almost has you rooting for the wrong people. A bar owner (Dan Hedaya) attempts to hire the private detective (M. Emmet Walsh) he has had investigating his wife (Frances McDormand) whom he suspects is having an affair with one of his bartenders (John Getz.) However, the detective turns the tables on the owner as he kills him for the money, figuring he could pin the murder on the couple by using the wife's handgun. However, the bartender discovers the body first, suspects the wife, and tries to get rid of the body for her. If it wasn't such a thriller, it could actually be a black comedy. Along the way, they encounter the detective, and twists ensue, keeping the viewers glued to their seats. A real good debut.
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10/10
An ageless masterpiece, 85, Coen style, with it's bloody moments
videorama-759-85939120 March 2014
In my opinion this is still the Coen brothers piece of resistance, or words to that effect. It still stands superior to everything else they've done, where I'm sure a lot of other people would disagree, or just haven't seen one this too. They f..kin should. The score of performances are great, particularly M Emmett Walsh, though I liked Hedaya's anger too. He's a jealous, and mentally unstable bar owner, who suspects his wife (Francis Mcdormand) excellent as she always is, is getting it on with younger employer (John Getz) an actor's 80's surprise, of versatility when seeing him in other films. He's hired corrupt and tubby PI, (Dan Visser Walsh, in a real evil performance of menace, images of him, will be locked in your mind after) to do some snooping around, and he comes up trumps kind of taunting Hedaya with the negatives. Now Hedaya's anger is beyond the point of sanity, where he pays a very generous sum to Walsh to take the two out. It's here when the thriller really takes it's turns and becomes fun, but believable too, after Walsh double crosses Hedaya. That's what's cool about it. The less I say now, the better. My only point I want to get across to you Coen fans out there, if you haven't seen their baby yet, that still holds the test of time, you must. It's a stylish film noir thriller, that moves at an easing pace, which is necessary and comes off all so brilliantly. And too there's the ending that shows another sense of style.
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