A Simple Plan (1998) Directed by Sam Raimi. With Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, Brent Briscoe and Bridget Fonda.
Based on a novel by Scott B. Smith and directed by Sam Raimi, A Simple Plan tells the story of three men who stumble across the wreckage of a light aircraft, discovering a duffel bag containing $4.4m. Set in rural Minnesota, the Coen Borthers’ Fargo immediately springs to mind with the snowy landscapes acting as a backdrop to a catalogue of criminality.
Hank (Bill Paxton) is an honest, working guy with a newborn daughter to his wife, Sarah (Bridget Fonda). His brother, Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) is a lost soul, living with the demons of his past. Together with Lou (Brent Briscoe), Hank and Jacob make the decision to form ‘a simple plan’ to keep the money. Of course, not all goes according.
While there’s little to trouble Fargo in terms of all-time classic status, Raimi handles the drama well, steadily turning the screw as the plot becomes more tangled. Casting Bill Paxton as the lead prevents the inherent distraction that comes with an A-list superstar, and further helps the audience place themselves in the shoes of the every-man to ask the overarching question – ” What would you do?”
In his supporting role, Billy Bob Thornton is excellent as Paxton’s troubled brother, capturing a sense of unpredictability that serves the overall tension. Moreover, Bridget Fonda contributes a surprising amount of ‘spike’ to what initially seems like a bland supporting role.
Raimi takes the time to pay homage to his own horror roots, serving up shots of crows congregated around the site of the crashed plane. There is a deftly applied hint that they know more than we do, which adds a layer of unease.
As things stretch out, perhaps it does get a little lost in the tangle, while one particular aspect of the finale doesn’t entirely convince. Overall though, even if it feels somewhat incidental – with good performances, there are enough twists and turns to make A Simple Plan a sturdy pot-boiler. 3.5/5