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Blood Simple

Blood Simple (1985)

January. 18,1985
| Drama Thriller Crime

The owner of a seedy small-town Texas bar discovers that one of his employees is having an affair with his wife. A chaotic chain of misunderstandings, lies and mischief ensues after he devises a plot to have them murdered.


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Whenever this film has come up in conversation, I have always said how good it is but barely remembering much beyond a wincingly tense scene involving a window, a crazy burial scene and the fact that the image was always very dark. That viewing must have been on some less than wonderful video because although most of the film is shot at night, it looks marvellous. Indeed, the visuals, the dialogue, the use of music, the pacing and the performances are near faultless. I still feel that burial scene is a bit too crazy but then allowing for the delirious state the main protagonist was in maybe it is fine, just not what any thinking person would choose to do. But no matter because it makes for great viewing, as does the entire film. There are moments when we do not know quite what is going on (and doubt the characters do too) but this is noir or at least neo- noir and that's all good.


Texas bar owner Julian Marty suspects that his wife, Abby, is having an affair with Ray, one of his barmen so employs Loren Visser, a sleazy private detective to obtain evidence. It turns out that he was right; Abby is having an affair. He later decides that Abby and Ray need to die so offers Visser $10,000 to murder them. He agrees but rather than killing them he shoots Marty with a pistol he stole from Abby's house. Things soon get complicated as Ray finds Marty and the abandoned gun which leads to him thinking Abby shot him; getting rid of the body won't be easy… even when this is done the problems are far from over; in fact they will get far greater before it is all over.This might not be the Cohen Brothers' best film but given that it was their first it is impressive and definitely hints at the great films to come. The story is somewhat complex, as each protagonist has a different idea of who did what to whom, but never confusing. Much of the action takes place at night; the darkness adding to the atmosphere. The cast does a fine job; Dan Hedaya really impresses as Marty, an intense character who it is easy to believe would pay to have somebody killed; M. Emmet Walsh is a lot of fun, and provides some laughs, as the sleazy detective; Frances McDormand is great as Abby, surprisingly her first film role; and John Getz is solid as Ray. While the film isn't exactly action packed there are moments of violence, some which might disturb some viewers… this is especially true during the impressively tense finale. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to fans of neo-noir or those who enjoy the Coen Brother's films.

Asif Khan (asifahsankhan)

"Blood Simple" may be a low-budget affair, but the casting of great character actors like M Emmet Walsh and Dan Hedaya wring true tension out of this film. As has become commonplace on their projects, the brothers Joel and Ethan Coen write, produce, and direct this film.Dan Hedaya plays a brooding and bitterly jealous bar owner who wreaks revenge on his wife and lover by arranging to have them killed. Hired for the job is the sleazy laughter-racked private eye Walsh, who seems forever to be attracting flies.Deception appears to run deep in the heart of Texas and some corpses don't stay dead forever. A satisfying plot of twists and vicious black humour unravels to a tense conclusion with the assembled cast clearly revelling in their roles.The pace can at times be a touch slow, but it's easy to see why the Coens allow certain scenes to simmer, especially when their actors are chewing up the screen as they do. They alone maintain the interest but Barry Sonnenfeld's cinematography defies the low budget, turning this into a stylish-looking thriller that boasts many clever shots.Intriguing, clever, and often surprisingly funny there's plenty to please in this thriller, that remains fresh and original even today.


The Cohen Brothers' first major feature has all the elements that make a Cohen Brothers movie what it is - dastardly characters, witty dialogue, dark humor, a smart script; it's just that the movie is film-school quality and the actors don't know they're working with legends so they aren't on top of their game.The film follows a murder ordered by a jealous husband, and the plot gets tangled up in betrayal, revenge, and mistrust. It is a classic noir construction with dark edges around the characters and their motives. The pace of the film is languid and slow, as with most noirs, except it can make the film seem tired.The Cohen Brothers seem to love westerns, as many of their films are set out there and if not, have traces of its influence either in the characters or story. I don't know how many Jewish cowboys there were, but the Cohens love to live out their wild and violent fantasies on screen and play around with these ideas.Cohen fans should definitely see Blood Simple. It will give them context and perspective to how these master filmmakers came into their style and craft. Noir fans will also enjoy the gritty and dark subject material.A decent film, but disappointing to me, simply because I've been spoiled rotten by Cohen gold all these years.