A Simple Plan (1998)
Reviewed on 2007 February 5
This is one of those gems that grabs you from the beginning. It’s a good story and character study, and I’m going to be more vague than usual with this review. The first time I watched it all I knew about it was “men find money and stuff goes wrong”. Everyone should get a chance to watch it like that.
Hank Mitchell (Bill Paxton) and his wife Sarah (Bridget Fonda) live a peaceful, low-key existence in the Minnesota woods. He works in a feed and grain store and his wife is a librarian. They’re not Hiltons but they love each other, and their small but pretty house has a cute nursery for their coming child, so they have all they need. They’re happy. They’re content.
One fateful New Year’s Eve, his dim brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jake’s loutish friend Lou Mitchell (Brent Briscoe) swing by to pick up Hank for a little run in the country. They stumble across a duffel bag filled with cash. Most legitimate businessmen don’t carry around calf-sized bags of money, so after much discussion they decide to hold onto it for a while. If nobody comes forward to claim it, they’ll split it. All they have to do is lay low and not tell anyone, right?
This is a nice dark movie, and Danny Elfman’s music only makes it gloomier. Sam Raimi did a wonderful job directing, and the acting from everyone is great. I always like Paxton, and Briscoe is unsettling as Lou — cheerfully peeing his name in the snow one minute, getting mad at Hank for “using big words” and “putting on airs” the next. But Thornton is especially good as Jake. His work here is only rivaled by his work in Sling Blade. Good as he was in Monster’s Ball, I still liked him better here.