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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 20.38%
Average: 8.28%
Pretty Bad: 5.73%
Total Crap: 9.55%

6 reviews, 121 user ratings

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by Greg Muskewitz

"Nothing beyond a little bit more than the average."
3 stars

As Joel and Ethan Coen admit themselves, their movies are over-analyzed. It kind of drives them crazy they say, and in a way it perturbs me as well; here is a case of critics praising someone way past the extent of their material and turning it into something wholly different. The Coen brothers are not Stanley Kubrick, they don't have a hidden meaning in the color scheme or in the placement of footprints or the way a character's hair is combed. But yet somehow their movies seem to invite this kind of over-analysis by critics who self-fully claim as their own. One of the culprits of this non-existent deep reading is Fargo.

The universality of Fargo has always eluded me. I can easily say that I did like the movie, but I don't feel that blown-out-of-proportion love of the movie considering that as a whole it wasn't that great. The script was written between the two brothers, but as it is, it is nothing more than a simple Mid-Western murder tale set in Fargo, Minnesota where one bad event leads to a chain of others. I like a good mystery, but since you know everything on an "all-on-the-table" basis, there's nothing to be mystified by. So we move onto the next hopefully checkpoint of "is it suspenseful?" To a point, yes and no. There is a great deal of suspense, but Fargo which shares a lot of resemblances to the Coen brothers' first movie, Blood Simple, strays away from the first by adding a lot of dark humor to lighten up the seriousness of the supposed true events this was based on. Sometimes the humor is quite effective, sometimes not.

In just about all of the Coen brothers movies, they've made Steve Buscemi and icon of their work. Buscemi is a funny actor, and he's often quite good, so as the main anal-antagonist ("The funny lookin' guy"), he works very well. The Coens are never chinsey on their cast. But the Coens never really fill their movies with the best of dialogue; unlike Whit Stillman or David Mamet, the Coens rely on the story to carry them along. Of course now with all the praise and wide-viewing, the catch phrases of Fargo, like "You betcha," or "Fer Pete's sake," or "Geez" and "Yaah" are overused and over-employed. The gag and subsequent assessment that this is a Minnesotan wears thin and quickly. A good feature of the script is the Coens' ability to shock the audience with streaming monologues and conversations of profanity, or sudden outbursts of harsh violence. (One is reminded of the scene where Buscemi's character is in the middle of copulation and an Indian mechanic rips him off of the girl and tosses him across the room and proceeds to beat the tar out of him. Or, the most memorable of all scenes, the Wood Chipper scene --the real classic part of the movie!)

Problem is, a lot of the characters are uninteresting. The audacity, and some of the thrill is what makes this movie. Okay, so maybe I wasn't hip to it, and I'm not trying to be the odd-duck out, but Fargo just doesn't do anything special or unordinary. Fargo is filled some good technical aspects; Roger Deakins' cinematography is lush and seductively photographed. The sound is superior in quality and Flick Heinrichs' production design itself can occasionally see the "above average" mark. The linearity that the move moves in is like a new factory conveyor belt, and it works in Fargo's favor. Once it passes a bit of monotony, it steadily increases in its development. Maybe earlier I dismissed most of the characters, at least with their obligatory colloquialisms and idiosyncrasies, but there were some that were blandly colorful. William H. Macy and Harve Presnell carbonate their areas, along with the superbly dyspeptic Buscemi, but both Peter Stormare and Frances McDormand never reach out beyond mediocre. I found them to be much more one-dimensional, or if Buscemi and Macy were three-dimensional, McDormand was about at the two-dimensional line. Her simple antics with her simple mind and the simplicity she does things at doesn't come across as very funny, maybe just a little stealing of potential. Like stealing the rain from the clouds, McDormand's character could have been so involved, but instead the Coens went for the pokey and surface fun.

Fargo is enjoyable, and on repeated viewings for me, certain structures of the set-up and execution of the movie distance me further from open-arms reception, but each time I find other certain "funnies" which keep the movie at bay with me. Fargo works a lot better on a "scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" philosophy, allowing you to take out more if you put in more. But I didn't feel it was worth the effort for a lot of it, so I must take it or leave it where it is. No matter how many symbols and subtleties you want to try and point out to me, I don't believe it, don't want to and won't try. When you continue to analyze a movie in which its makers are just as vocal about its simplicity, the added baggage does not work. However, despite popular belief, it is in good fun.

Final Verdict: B-

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originally posted: 03/18/00 03:52:50
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User Comments

9/16/17 morris campbell not bad but overrated 3 stars
3/12/17 richard bad acting, bad accents and in the wrong state 1 stars
11/02/15 FireWithFire White Scandiavians: this movie SHITS ALL OVER YOU - it's jewish racism!!!! 1 stars
3/25/15 stanley welles an intriguing, entertaining movie featuring memorable characters and quotable dialogue 5 stars
6/28/14 Chris Just watched it again. Yup, still hate it. This movie deserves none of its hype or awards. 1 stars
10/21/13 Paul Toth Superb movie, great acting and a warm heroine with a razor sharp mind. 5 stars
12/21/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Great movie! 5 stars
6/01/10 User Name The accents make this quirky dark comedy even funnier. 4 stars
1/25/10 Chad Dillon Cooper The Coen brothers are cinema masters. 5 stars
7/23/09 Meatbog Cinematographily Beautiful. And WOODCHIPPERS! 5 stars
7/08/09 *Holy_J@lapeno* Its a tad bit slow for the average person but if you can accept the dark humor it rocks. 4 stars
4/17/09 Total Crap Macy and Buschemi are the only things going for this movie. 3 stars
1/12/09 Alan Just watched it for the first time. It's like "No Country For Old Men", only better. 5 stars
1/10/09 Scarlett Excellent! could be watched time and time again! perfect reflection of the Coens talent! 5 stars
1/06/09 FrankNFurter Arguably one of the best American films ever made. A must see! 5 stars
9/17/08 Stu The best film ever (no, really, it is). Everything about it is perfect. 5 stars
3/22/08 Pamela White suspense and drama 4 stars
12/25/07 mb Interesting. 4 stars
12/09/07 Sam Eli just fantastic with great acting and directing 4 stars
11/16/07 kdawg i am tramatized after seeing fargo, the sterotypes were annoying & the violence, disgusting 1 stars
9/21/07 David Cohen Is it an insipid drama or an unfunny comedy? Who cares: it sucks 1 stars
6/13/07 al smith the coens best.buscemi and macy at the top of their game 5 stars
1/15/07 jeannie karlsen one of the best dark comedies ever made! truly genius! 5 stars
12/13/06 Sepi53 good film, but overrated! 4 stars
11/03/06 David Pollastrini we need more wood chippers in movies! 5 stars
10/02/06 Jeremy Davies Boring and overrated. I can't see why this movie was nominated for best picture 2 stars
9/25/06 Lisa Craven Macy at his best, never get tired of watching this classic 5 stars
7/28/06 Josh Racine Every scene in the film is classic. 5 stars
4/14/06 Manana Lekborashvili Bravo Coen Brothers'! 5 stars
3/26/06 Thomas Semesky A good movie with interesting characters and a well written script 4 stars
1/23/06 Max B. Nearly ten years on, and this film remains an unmatched classic. 5 stars
1/19/06 John Dog Coen Brothers' best. 5 stars
12/21/05 JJ Probably the worst movie Ive ever seen, people though it was good because of the accents? 1 stars
7/04/05 blowsky mcgraw, i bet youre a dumbass with A.D.D that onlu likes action, retard 5 stars
5/25/05 Jake Brilliant! 5 stars
3/18/05 indrid cold The most overrated movie in the overrated Coen brother's ouevre. 3 stars
2/05/05 Alice Colwell good movie 5 stars
12/11/04 Ghetto Smurf Fucking amazing. I did not lose interest at all during any scene. 5 stars
10/25/04 Ronald A Weiss finally watch the dvd...sorry I waited so long 5 stars
8/16/04 Peter James A good movie...a shame the Coen brothers lied and said it was based on a true story 4 stars
8/15/04 McGraw DUUULL .I was expecting so much more from the Coens. 2 stars
7/18/04 scrambled brain i've seen fargo 5 or 6 times, and never get bored 5 stars
7/17/04 legend A slow but enjoyable movie. Worth getting on DVD. 5 stars
7/01/04 Mikey Crunt One of the most underrated films of all time. Honestly, some people!!!! 5 stars
6/15/04 T. Maj One of the most overrated films of all time 1 stars
6/13/04 Jack Sommersby Too smug and uneven and (when you get right down to it) stupid. 2 stars
4/27/04 Ryan This film just show that fucked up people aren't just from new york and LA. 5 stars
4/05/04 Miss Julie I couldn't love a movie more than this one. LOVE, do you hear me? LOVE!!!! 5 stars
3/23/04 Lord Haw Haw A cliassic. In the top five best movies of the '90s. 5 stars
3/01/04 Phyllis Joy I don't know why this film got so much attention, and especially praise! I didn't like it. 2 stars
1/13/04 john bale Coen Bros. quirky murder mayhem, funny but noir, again proves to be great cinema. 5 stars
12/08/03 john i found it condescending to its charachters - too in love with its own cleverness 2 stars
8/10/03 I Would OH YAH!!! 5 stars
7/12/03 Indrid Cold Radically overrated. Hate that self-conscious "we're quirky indie directors" thing. 2 stars
6/30/03 joshx42 One of the greatest movies of all time. 5 stars
6/27/03 cochese Grabs your attention and keeps it. great acting. 5 stars
4/21/03 Vince A little too weird, but Buscemi is good. 4 stars
4/13/03 M Megraw I laughed thru the whole movie 5 stars
4/01/03 Rebecca Quite Quotable, Intelligently Written, and Excellent Acting 5 stars
1/14/03 Nancy Niedzielski What the hell was the big deal? 2 stars
1/01/03 Andy Todes "it's my deal, wade!" some of the best dialogue you'll ever hear. 5 stars
11/24/02 Kyle Didn't do much for me. And McDormand's accent got on my nerves. 2 stars
11/23/02 Charles Tatum North Dakota Rules!!! Uff-da!!! 5 stars
11/16/02 Big Ted Best Film of 1996.Macy & McDormand are tops! 5 stars
9/08/02 Jim The Coen brothers' best movie. Now, don't you hurt Scotty eh? 5 stars
5/17/02 Priscilla Postlethwaite Greg Muskewitz, Fargo ain't in Minnesota! 3 stars
4/05/02 Edfink Lombardo The Best Film of 1996! Buscemi, Macy, and McDormand are excellent 5 stars
2/20/02 Xaver We Minnesotan do kinda talk kinda funny. 5 stars
1/24/02 Elliot for those who just can't let go of Saturday morning cartoons. 1 stars
12/02/01 Carrie Janek I had to watch this for a college cinema class 3 stars
12/01/01 Mark Conway total pish, no character development, just some nuttter who kills ever 1, 1 stars
10/16/01 Mr. Hat (formerly Joe Zappa) One of the best of the Coens. 5 stars
9/03/01 Butterbean Margie was as cute as a button in this movie. The Coen bros. knows how to tell a story! 5 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Surreal Coen brothers experience that tests character and soul. 5 stars
6/24/01 Dean They kill like 10 people, yet the director feels he needs to explain that was bad. PLEASE. 1 stars
6/20/01 Elvisfan One of the only American movies not typically American. That's a good thing.. 5 stars
5/07/01 Mikko Salminen Absolutely the best film ever! 5 stars
4/08/01 Andrew Deikun Incredible movie. Original. Highest recommendation 5 stars
4/01/01 Adam Richards One of my favorites. Jerry Lundegaard is the biggest loser in the history of cinema! 5 stars
3/28/01 saucy terrible!!! terrible!!! terrible!!! 1 stars
3/15/01 Rael A great film, dontchaknow (the Coen Brother's best). 5 stars
3/08/01 Trashstar I found this movie hilarious, very very entertaining. 4 stars
2/13/01 Jake Unlike any film I've seen before. The lesson is that Crime doesn't pay. 5 stars
12/18/00 gariott Frances McDormand and William H Macy are both wonderful, brilliantly acted dark comedy! 5 stars
12/04/00 Cristopher Revilla ok, too much hype but still its worth your fucking money!!!! 5 stars
11/14/00 The EVIL Penguin This movie RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 stars
9/04/00 DarcyElaine Great cinematography, and it introduced the world to W.H.Macy. Other than that, not great. 3 stars
8/25/00 Joep excellent cast enhances a well written plot 5 stars
8/18/00 Matthew Bartley Erm...I've re-evaluated it...still over-rated 4 stars
7/28/00 Chris Drake Wickedly amusing yet overrated.Made-for-tv look.Not based on fact 4 stars
1/13/00 PervertedPixie WAY over-rated, but Buscemi, McDormand and the Coens are cool as always. 4 stars
1/04/00 Nice Guy Eddie not the best from the coens, but worth a trip to the video store. 4 stars
11/20/99 latife arslan white red but black 4 stars
11/09/99 Bozo McDormand great but not Oscar-caliber; Macy was brilliant & so was screenplay 5 stars
10/19/99 Andi steve buscemi's the greatest 5 stars
10/04/99 Frank Fasciano ggg 5 stars
7/28/99 dave the worst movie ever 1 stars
7/24/99 Hagbard Celine One of the best films of the 90s. William Macy is an astoundingly good actor. 5 stars
7/04/99 J-Dogg I really don't get what all the fuckin' fuss is about. This shit wasn't that good. 3 stars
6/29/99 Anakin Soilwalker pretty violent....lots of blood..on the snow...pretty interesting.. 4 stars
6/15/99 Dylan Coen Brother's do it again. Are these guys totally fucking flawless or what? 5 stars
5/04/99 Big Dog William H Macy is really from up North 5 stars
4/21/99 Ah Dooey Still better than Urban Legend, with a few good laughs; in other words: great! 5 stars
3/22/99 A. M. What Hollywood thinks of America. 1 stars
3/17/99 Go Swans Did i like it? Yah 5 stars
2/19/99 Bruce Hedge Right,Ryan A never seen a movie like it! 5 stars
2/18/99 Piz brilliant performances, but why was i cheering for the bad guys?? 4 stars
2/07/99 Vick Di Brecci Very smooth movie. Soundtrack a direct rip of Taxi Driver. Make a note of that 4 stars
1/24/99 Hannah A euphoric movie-going experience. 5 stars
1/12/99 demon_shredder This movie was da bomb 5 stars
1/10/99 Dasha Frances McDormand was fantastic, but overall - overrated crap and big disappointment for me 1 stars
1/03/99 Charles Dubé Another quirky helping of cinematic bliss from the Coen bros.! 5 stars
12/18/98 jenn WOW, this movie sucked 1 stars
12/18/98 Jules A true original. Pretty much perfect. 5 stars
12/09/98 Andrea Great acting, good directing, just worth it for the accents. 5 stars
12/08/98 davebo Great atmosphere, acting, directing, I love it 5 stars
12/08/98 PirateGirl I laughed, I cried, I laughed some more at the accents 5 stars
12/08/98 CaptNish Great flick, but I think it was incredibly overrated. 4 stars
12/08/98 Silent Rob Brilliant Coen-Caper. Stellar performances! A Bona Fide quirk-fest! 5 stars
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  08-Mar-1996 (R)


  02-Jul-1996 (MA)

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