A Simple Plan (1998)

Directed by Sam Raimi
Written by Scott B. Smith, based on his novel
Starring Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, Bridget Fonda, Brent Briscoe, Gary Cole

My Advice: Matinee.

Longtime Needcoffee.com fave Sam Raimi proves that amazingly (to us anyway), there's more to life than evil books, eyes flying across the room, and chainsaws.  There's also morality (or the lack thereof), corruption, and thievery. 

Hank Mitchell (Paxton) is happy with his wife (Fonda) and daughter on the way.  He's got a brother, Jacob (Thornton), who's not too quick on the uptake.  His brother has a friend named Lou (Briscoe) who's the town unemployed drunk.  While chasing Jacob's dog, they happen across a downed plane with one dead pilot and four million plus in cash.  Rather than go to the police, they decide to keep the money and see if anyone claims it.  Sounds simple, right?  Rrrright.

This is the kind of immorality play that you would almost expect from an EC Comics title, only in this case there's no vengenceful corpses.  Left alone, such stories are interesting and suspenseful, but seldom do they become exemplary films.  This movie is an exception, due to a fine cast, Raimi's very smart direction, and Smith's excellent adaptation.  What we're given is a film where the characters are very multi-dimensional and actually have reasons for what they do.  We're given a mood by Raimi that quickly sets us up for what's happening.  Not only should you keep your eye on the fox throughout the movie, but Jacob's observation that birds who wait around for something to die so they can eat it have a "weird job" is a perfect, perfect line.

And we're given a great cast.  Let me mention Brent Briscoe first, since he gets left out everytime somebody reviews this thing.  His town drunk is a pitiable individual and he plays white trash like nobody's business.  Paxton's "good man" exterior chipping away shows the acting prowess that proves he did Mighty Joe Young because he needed a house.  Fonda is increasingly more impressive as the movie progresses, becoming the most driven and conniving member of the little group that knows about the money.  The true standout is Thornton, whose ability to physically transform himself for a role gets more impressive with each film.  His slow Jacob is as far removed from Sling Blade's Karl Childers as was his character of Truman in Armageddon

All in all, the film manages to transcend its formula and become a very interesting study into what makes good people do evil things.  And it's Thornton's character who seems to be the only one who honestly wonders about that subject, when he says, "Do you ever feel evil?  I do."  Raimi has proven himself, but we knew he rocked regardless.  Good job.

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