Tag Archives: Dan Hedaya

Blood Simple (1984) Review

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Blood Simple

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language & sex scenes
Cast:
John Getz as Ray
Frances McDormand as Abby
Dan Hedaya as Julian Marty
M. Emmet Walsh as Lorren Visser
Samm-Art Williams as Meurice
Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

A man (Dan Hedaya) hires detectives to find out whether or not his wife (Frances McDormand) has been cheating on him. He orders the detective (M. Emmet Walsh) to kill her off if his suspicions turn out to be true.

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I knew of Blood Simple as being the first film from Joel and Ethan Coen, I liked a lot of their movies so I wanted to check it out. In all honesty I wasn’t really expecting much from it, despite hearing some positive things about it. However Blood Simple was a good film along with being a great debut movie from the pair.

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Blood Simple is a moody and seedy crime thriller, and an effective neo-noir. You can actually see glimpses of what the Coen Brothers would do later on in their careers, especially with the writing style. Tonally it does lean more into their serious crime work like No Country for Old Men, despite featuring some dark humour. While this movie doesn’t have the memorable characters or amazing dialogue you’d find in the Coen Brothers’ later movies, the writing is still great, so was the dialogue. The plot is simple enough and isn’t too expository, while playing around with characters perspectives. It is one of their most suspenseful movies, with the feelings of anxiety and paranoia gradually increasing over the course of the movie, and the plot wasn’t predictable. The final act is particularly tense. There are also little bits of dark humour blended in earlier in the movie. I will say that the characters in this movie aren’t exactly great, especially when compared to the characters in the Coen’s other films. All the characters are simple with like one trait each. So although the performances are good, I didn’t really care for the characters. It does take its time getting into the movie because the pacing is quite slow despite the fact that it is 90 minutes long, but I settled into it eventually.

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As I just said, the characters aren’t as memorable or impressive, at least when compared to the other characters that the Coen Brothers have written in other movies. Nonetheless, the performances are great. Frances McDormand gives an excellent performance in one of her early roles. M. Emmet Walsh is also impressive as the private investigator, who initially comes across as an unlikable goofball, but also turns menacing, and he balances both aspects of his character very well. The acting definitely makes up for the actual writing of the characters.

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The direction perfectly compliments the writing, and Blood Simple was a stylish and technically impressive debut that feels assured. The budget is definitely on the lower side at around $1.5 million, and it’s not as polished as their later work but you sort of expect it. It is gorgeously shot and has some great cinematography from Barry Sonnenfeld, from the camerawork and movements to the lighting and the use of neon. The scenes of tension and violence are also excellently crafted, with the final sequence being one of the most thrilling sequences that the Coen Brothers have ever filmed. Carter Burwell’s score is also memorable and really captures the film’s essence.

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The Coen Brothers have definitely made better movies than Blood Simple, but it is a very assured and solid directorial debut, and one that contains all the ingredients that made their later films so great. If you are a fan of them as writers and directors then it’s definitely worth watching, but it’s also worth watching if you are a fan of crime and noir thrillers in general.

Commando (1985) Review

Time: 90 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1]
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as John Matrix
Rae Dawn Chong as Cindy
Alyssa Milano as Jenny Matrix
Vernon Wells as Bennett
James Olson as Maj Gen. Franklin Kirby
David Patrick Kelly as Sully
Bill Duke as Cooke
Dan Hedaya as Arius
Director: Mark L. Lester

Retired Special Forces soldier John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) lives with daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano) in isolation, but his privacy is disturbed by former commander Franklin Kirby (James Olson), who warns him that his fellow soldiers are getting killed one by one. After Kirby leaves, Jenny is kidnapped by former Latin American dictator Arius (Dan Hedaya), who wants Matrix to restore him to power. Instead, Matrix sets out to take down the rogue leader and rescue his daughter.

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In the 1980s, Arnold Schwarzenegger established himself as an action star with The Terminator, and he increased his action icon status with movies like 1985’s Commando. Commando is a very silly over the top Schwarzenegger flick, it’s not one of his best films (even when just considering the action genre) but it is one of his more well known over the top action movies. Completely ridiculous, it has a real self awareness and charm to it that actually elevates the movie and makes it work.

This movie is very straightforward, Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to get his daughter back and is going to kill a lot of people along the way. That’s all that this 90 minute movie consists of. If you want some form of compelling story or character development, you won’t find it here. The characters are very standard and basic, with nothing special about them. However, what makes Commando work as an Arnold flick (over some of his other action movies) is that Commando knows that it’s a stupid and goofy action movie. It’s full of cheesy one liners that seem to be written specifically for Arnold. You don’t really get much tension, you never feel like Arnold is really in any danger, anything that he goes up against doesn’t pose much of a problem for long. The closest thing to being that is the final fight but even then you know he’ll be fine in the end. You’re just watching Arnold kill a bunch of people on his way to rescue his daughter. I will say that it’s really the third act that’s the complete action filled flick that you’d want. Before that, as over the top as it could be, it really wasn’t as large as you’d think it would be. With that said, it is worth staying around for the third act because it is really something completely nuts and entertaining.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in this movie is playing pretty much a basic version of all the action heroes he’s played and would continue to play, the character really doesn’t have much to him. His character of John Matrix is a former killing machine who has a daughter and that’s all that there is to him. It’s not a great performance but it’s not really meant to be. Schwarzenegger is a good actor, whatever role he’s given he does the best with what he’s given and usually delivers what is expected (at the very least), his role here is no exception and he does the best he can with it, even if it’s a pretty generic character. There’s not much to say about the other actors. I guess Alyssa Milano and Rae Dawn Chong are good enough. The villains are all pretty one note and don’t really pose a threat to Matrix at all but their performances all fit their generic bad guy roles. The standout of all of them was Vernon Wells, who was quite entertaining as an crazy over the top villain who’s the only one who seems to be at the level of John Matrix on a physical level.

As far as 80s action movies go, Commando is pretty well directed by Mark L. Lester. It is filled with all of the over the top 80s action clichés and the movie is far from realistic but they are entertaining nonetheless. The action is actually well shot, you can actually see what’s happening. Some of the action scenes are more entertaining than others, as I said it’s really the third act that gives you the goofy and over the top action you’re looking for. The third act is purely action sequences after action sequences with Arnold plowing through countless enemy soldiers like nothing and also has a pretty solid end fight.

If you like silly and cheesy action movies from the 80s, Commando is honestly a must watch if you haven’t seen it already. Arnold Schwarzenegger effortlessly delivers as always, the action is entertaining but most of all, this movie knows what it is and doesn’t try to be anything more than that, which is why it works so well. As I said earlier, it’s not the ultimate over the top action flick, really its just the last act that goes absolutely nuts with its action. However it’s probably one of the best examples of 80s action movies (Arnold Schwarzenegger flicks particularly), especially when it comes to all the tropes and clichés. So give Commando a watch if you want a silly action flick.