Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence, offensive language & sex scenes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.