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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 20.29%
Average: 13.04%
Pretty Bad: 2.17%
Total Crap: 0.72%

10 reviews, 78 user ratings

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Simple Plan, A
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Raimi's somber, unexciting noir."
3 stars

A snowy white wasteland as a background for dark doings, a blank void that suggests a larger moral void: this is becoming something of a trend in thrillers, as witness 'Fargo,' 'Smilla's Sense of Snow,' and now 'A Simple Plan.' It's a new breed of film noir — call it film blanc. A wintry climate can make a thriller seem more weighty: the characters have to move slower, each step producing a crisp, fatalistic crunch as they waddle through the snow towards their doom.

In A Simple Plan, the usually hyperactive director Sam Raimi sustains a mood of unforgiving bleakness — the dark, gnarled trees bowed by snow, the vast white void waiting to gather up human frailties. Unfortunately, a thriller ultimately needs more than mood. Based on a bestseller by Scott Smith (who also wrote the script), A Simple Plan is about three guys who stumble across a major amount of cash and then slowly unravel as they clash over whether to keep it, who gets to hold onto it, what to do with it, and so on. That's what it's about; that's all it's about. The film is handsomely mounted but awfully familiar: crime does not pay, greed is bad, be sure your sins will find you out, what a tangled web we weave, etc. How many times have we seen this before? How many more times will we have to see it?

Raimi is working at a disadvantage, because he doesn't have the material that would set this movie apart from a dozen other such thrillers. The three protagonists — brothers Hank (Bill Paxton) and Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton), and Jacob's friend Lou (Brent Briscoe) — are presented almost entirely in terms of how much they need the money. Any aspects of their characters that don't "move the plot forward," as they say in screenwriting classes, have been left out. Hank's a decent guy, married (Bridget Fonda plays his wife) and with a baby on the way; Jacob is a dimwitted nerd (does anyone else prefer Billy Bob Thornton when he plays smart people?), and Lou is a grizzly drunk. I wasn't especially interested in any of them, and the actors seem too tightly reined in; their underplaying echoes Raimi's conscious underdirecting.

A Simple Plan lacks the local color and eccentricity of a movie like Fargo, which famously paused and gave valuable screen time to that Japanese guy who had nothing whatsoever to do with the story. I don't want to compare this movie to Fargo too much, but the fact is that film noir can't be done straight any more; we need all the quirks and distractions a director can toss our way, so that our attention isn't focused completely on the mechanics of the plot. Raimi, the prankish maestro behind the Evil Dead trilogy, would seem the ideal filmmaker to throw us a few curves, but here his rambunctious instincts seem frozen stiff. So we watch the story unfold and we predict pretty much all of it, including the fate of a major character who has the misfortune to be played by an actor whose name isn't above the title.

This isn't a bad movie; Sam Raimi does it well, but why did he do it at all? Maybe, like a comedian who's made millions laugh, Raimi now craves respectability — he wants to prove he can be serious. But except for a few moments, usually involving violence or its aftermath (there's a macabre bit involving a corpse that seems to be moving), Raimi can't do much with this stuff. He's as locked into the film noir mechanism as the characters are. And there's something a bit sad and self-deluding about a director trying to go respectable in what's essentially snowbound pulp. It's been done before, and Raimi doesn't do it much differently or put his own stamp on it; he delivers it professionally, somberly, as if it were art-house material deserving of the utmost gravity.

There was more art in any five minutes of 'Evil Dead 2' than in all of 'A Simple Plan.' Sam Raimi doesn't wear seriousness well; it wears him out.

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originally posted: 02/03/07 05:48:06
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User Comments

4/03/20 Ed Riddick Great acting & screenplay. Perfect cast. 5 stars
5/13/16 j la mere engrossing.a whirlpool of tension leading ordinary people into a dark abyss. 4 stars
8/25/13 Steve A solid, engrossing, emotional film---and a bit exhausting! 4 stars
7/28/13 Katherine Until looking at this review I was on the edge of my seat LOVED IT anyway. 4 stars
5/27/13 c slow and over ratted. left feeling disappointed 2 stars
12/02/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome Story! 5 stars
10/02/07 Double M A Character study that is deep, powerful (if very depressing) with GREAT cast and directing 5 stars
5/07/07 Tracey Chambers a movie I can watch over and over, great acting, great story 5 stars
11/08/05 suzanne taut and tragic; packed with great performances 5 stars
10/10/05 Julia was pretty good 4 stars
8/30/05 Nick Kraemer Great movie. Filmed in my HOMETOWN!!! 4 stars
3/26/05 Lia such an amazing movie 5 stars
3/18/05 indrid cold A "simple" movie, but perfectly done. Doesn't get much better than this. 5 stars
2/07/05 Jeff Anderson A tightly scripted, perfectly directed & acted film about responsibility in a bad situation 5 stars
9/05/04 DM Gripping and heartbreaking 5 stars
7/17/04 Harry J Unbelievable drama level......Hitchcock of my faves. 5 stars
6/03/04 the bride The rating says it all... Just awesome 5 stars
12/03/03 Agent Sands Really tight script and great acting. The wife getting shot is actually hilariously staged. 4 stars
7/26/03 Kyle How the fuck was this predictable? 5 stars
7/23/03 JJ So predictable, so boring 1 stars
5/15/03 George Jung One of the best movies of the 90s. Proves Raimi's talent as a director. 5 stars
4/13/03 Jack Sommersby Takes a horrifying novel and dilutes it with contrivance and convenience. 2 stars
3/19/03 Sandy Robinson One of the best-acted, but, saddest movies of all time. 5 stars
11/15/02 Stevo Thornton and Briscoe are superb, but can't save a generally badly plotted, boring movie. 2 stars
4/03/02 Butterbean A nice thriller to watch right after you've wasted your time with THE PANIC ROOM. 4 stars
10/29/01 Gary Strong performances (esp. Paxton & Fonda), supreme direction & beautiful cinematography. 5 stars
9/05/01 Jake Too slow, tedious, and overlong. Good story clumsily unravels 3 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk Sam Raimi's best film next to the Evil Dead series. A beautifully directed thriller. 5 stars
7/05/01 Matthew Bartley Great thriller 5 stars
5/02/01 R.W. Welch Watchable, but it's hard to work up much empathy for these guys. 4 stars
3/01/01 John Trent Didn´t expect anything good,what a a surprise! 5 stars
10/21/00 joh completly brilliant 5 stars
9/02/00 jetcat main character relentlessly annoying, thornton didn't play his role well enough 3 stars
5/30/00 natasha beautifully done -- morose and intense 4 stars
5/23/00 lucas jackson outstanding and original,dam good!!!!! 5 stars
3/06/00 Richard Wright A very depressing but ultimately worthwhile film with unsuspecting twists and great acting. 5 stars
2/12/00 Skye Chapman treasure of the sierra madre meets fargo 5 stars
1/18/00 Josh One of the best movies I have ever seen, should have won best picture and director 5 stars
1/10/00 Will Leaves you chilled and depressed. Not all movies have to be cheery fuckfests. 5 stars
11/24/99 Murray Castles Great acting and directing. Aint Thornton great. Read the book. 5 stars
10/05/99 rob A heartwrenching,devastating masterpiece. 5 stars
9/25/99 KK This is one depressing movie, but definitely worth watching. 4 stars
9/07/99 seldom scene the best a movie has to offer 5 stars
8/15/99 Elizaveta This film shattered me as few others ever have..absolutely brilliant! 5 stars
7/04/99 J-Dogg Characters are fleshed out to the bone, making this great, but ending made little sense. 4 stars
6/09/99 PurityJustBegs A harrowing, audacious film that devistates and provokes..flawless storytelling.. 5 stars
4/27/99 JonnyAngel Great film, great film making. 5 stars
4/27/99 Lucas jackson it is an outstanding,spectacular movie full of twists and turns with some great humor 5 stars
4/05/99 Cool Thing Maybe it's just me, but I didn't think it was all that good. Bordered on boring. 3 stars
4/03/99 Lily Devastating! Raimi can do wotever he desires. 5 stars
3/11/99 nototis One lapse in logic you could drive a truck through, but first-rate in spite of it. 4 stars
3/11/99 haden lawyer Raimi is a god among cretins 5 stars
3/11/99 Negative Creep Thornton Steals the show. 4 stars
3/09/99 Katie Brilliant film, Billy Bob deserves the Oscar and so does the screenplay. 5 stars
3/04/99 The Graduate Very well crafted characters, esp. Thornton (hello, Oscar!). 5 stars
2/18/99 pd fine performances all around.tension filled morality piece. 4 stars
2/15/99 Kooky Sal Raimi's directorship was a downside. It was unsuitable. Over-rated. 3 stars
2/14/99 Jack Deth great adaptation of the book. thornton gets 5 stars for his performance 5 stars
2/10/99 jaybo Paxton's best work since Weird Science 5 stars
2/05/99 mark h Some startling scenes-unexpected-shocking-movie craftsmanship 5 stars
2/01/99 Tom Ripley Great novel becomes a great movie. One for the top ten list. 5 stars
1/30/99 davebo cliche plot but done better than ever before, all the snow reminds me of fargo :) 5 stars
1/29/99 Scott Stipe I loved the book, movie was great, SAM RAIMI 5 stars
1/26/99 Jim Fay Thornton terrific as usual. A great job by Paxton. I didn't expect that from him at all. 5 stars
1/24/99 James E. Laczkowski Best Film I've Seen In Many A Moon 5 stars
1/24/99 Hannah Hopkins-Maupin Thornton is unbelievable. 5 stars
1/03/99 Negative Creep Great film, paxton is a highly underrated actor, Thornton is excellent 4 stars
1/03/99 Leon Russell Amusing, a rich girl like Bridget preaching about the evils of money. 3 stars
12/31/98 grunter despite Thornton's performance, overrated and utterly predictable; Fonda's dialogue shines 3 stars
12/28/98 Dan Rowe great acting, love the scenery, crows against snow. 5 stars
12/14/98 Binky Paxton's best film yet. Why is this not in wide release? 5 stars
12/10/98 Greg Robinson You Suck cock 5 stars
12/10/98 dana Excellent performances, writing, & direction! Paxton's best since One False Move. 5 stars
12/04/98 Garfield Awesome beyond belief!!!! 5 stars
12/01/98 Kirgo Not as good as Fargo, like people are saying, but very, very, well done, never-the-less. 5 stars
8/27/98 Mister Whoopee Will be a big Oscar contender this year. Billy Bob and Paxton shine. Music by Elfman. 5 stars
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  04-Dec-1998 (R)


  04-Feb-1999 (MA)

Directed by
  Sam Raimi

Written by
  Scott B. Smith

  Bill Paxton
  Billy Bob Thornton
  Bridget Fonda
  Brent Briscoe
  Jack Walsh
  Gary Cole

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