RogerBW's Blog

A Simple Plan (1998) 30 March 2024

1998 drama, dir. Sam Raimi, Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton: IMDb / allmovie. All we have to do is hide the money for a few months while the heat dies down.

I always like to see Bill Paxton, and here's a rare leading role for him. But his Hank isn't a hero; he's a man who thinks he can do the one minor bad thing, then go back to his normal life, and hasn't realised—and doesn't ever realise—that in order to succeed he'd have to go a lot deeper.

Meanwhile Billy Bob Thornton, who in this same year would be the dignified centre of Armageddon, reprises to some extent his character from Sling Blade (a passion project from two years earlier): his Jacob isn't explicitly developmentally disabled, but he's clearly not quite right, and this is in poor rural Minnesota so there's probably never been any chance for him to get a diagnosis or any kind of support.

And they're the heart of the film. Scott Smith adapted his own novel for the screenplay, making substantial changes, but to me the events themselves wouldn't be interesting to watch; it's the acting from these two, and to some extent from Bridget Fonda as Hank's wife Sarah who is clearly the only one of these losers to have worked out that in order to profit from criminality you need actually to think like a criminal, that dragged me in over the barrier of escalating tension and the sense of impeding doom, something I don't usually enjoy in film.

There are various bits that don't quite work on a technical level (the bullet wound left by a hunting rifle will look very unlike the ditto left by a pistol that it's supposed to be, and even a rural medical examiner would spot that and raise suspicions) but what this is about is the people first of all. I don't see myself wanting to watchi t again in a hurry but it's very effective.

I talk about this film further on Ribbon of Memes.

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