"You work for the American dream...you don't steal it."
Worthy of the attention its received.A Simple Plan is based on the (superior) novel of the same name, written by Scott B. Smith, who also penned the screenplay. I read the book long before I ever knew it was being made into a feature.
The Hitchcockian elements are pretty familiar. Ordinary folks thrown into an extraordinary situation, as a couple of Joe Averages stumble across a cool (literally) $4.5 million in cash. Average Joes decide to keep the loot, and keep quiet unless someone comes looking for it. Eventually they split it up and go their separate ways. Which is all fine and dandy, at least at the beginning.
Hank (Bil Paxton) is the smart one. He's a little unsure at first, but then decides to go along. The money will help his family out, as he and his wife (Bridget Fonda) are due to have a baby in the coming weeks. His brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) is the slow one. He's unsightly, with long, straggly hair, coke-bottle glasses and yellow teeth. He's a simple guy, not exactly stupid, but far from being the sharpest tack in the drawer. His friend Lou (Brent Briscoe) is the comic relief. Fat, loud, obnoxious and greedy. They all seem incapable of the bad things that eventually start to happen, both to them and caused by them.
That's all the plot you'll get. There's too many twists and mounting surprises that follow.
I enjoyed the film a great deal. Sam Raimi does a fine job in moving into more mainstream features, and the film is beautifully shot (Raimi got advice on shooting and lighting in snow - where eseentially the entire film takes place - from his friends the Coen brothers, so it certainly evokes Fargo).
The principle actors all have defining moments. Thornton and Fonda both have big scenes - big speeches - that make them enjoyable to watch. In the case of Fonda, it saves the role for her, because for the rest of the film she seems a bit miscast. In the case of Thornton, it makes his entire performance just that much more watchable. Paxton does fine throughout the film, although there's a scene early on that sticks with me as a Paxton moment - an oddly over the top exchange with a bit player on the street. Paxton always seems to have one scene in every role he plays where he just acts so insincere.On the whole, very well done.