Saturday, February 4, 2012

#537. Blood Simple (1984)

Directed By: Joel and Ethan Coen

Starring: John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya

Tag line: "Dead in the heart of Texas"

Trivia:  On the advice of Sam Raimi, the Coens went door-to-door showing potential investors a two minute 'trailer' of the film they planned to make

Joel and Ethan Coen’s Blood Simple opens with a bit of down-home philosophy. Visser (M. Emmett Walsh), a shady private eye who figures prominently in the story to follow, says, “In Russia, they got it mapped out so that everyone pulls for everyone else. But what I know about is Texas, and down here…you’re on your own”. Blood Simple is the tale of four people whose lives intersect at a specific moment in time. They talk, make backroom deals, and, on occasion, are even intimate with one another, yet never once do any of them connect on a meaningful level. Put two together in the same room, and it won't make a bit of difference; these characters are always emotionally alone. 

Marty (Dan Hedeya), a Texas bar owner, has contracted Visser to murder his adulterous wife, Abby (Frances McDormand), and her lover, an employee of his named Ray (John Getz). Visser takes the job, all the while searching for a way to get his hands on Marty’s money without seeing it through. Double-crosses abound throughout Blood Simple, leading to a violent climax that might signal the end for all of them. 

The four protagonists in Blood Simple have an unusually dark nature. Marty is enraged over Abby’s infidelity, yet his anger has nothing to do with love. He just can't stand playing the fool to anyone, and it’s for this reason alone he hires Visser to kill her. As for Visser, he’s your typical slimeball, a money-hungry leech who likes pushing people's buttons just to get a reaction out of them. After following Ray and Abby to a motel, Visser reports back to Marty, informing him they've shacked up for the night. The next morning, he brings Marty pictures of the two of them in bed, and makes an off-color remark about the intensity of their lovemaking. When an understandably perturbed Marty asks why he felt it necessary to take pictures, Visser smiles and says, “fringe benefits”. Even the lovers, Ray and Abby, don’t have much to say, and barely speak more than a couple sentences to each other. The decision to start the affair was a sudden one, with Ray telling Abby he “likes” her, and asking if she'd consider spending the night with him in the motel they just drove past. Abby asks why, to which Ray again replies he likes her. In the very next scene, the two are having sex together. 

Confusion abounds in Blood Simple, pushing all four characters towards a chasm of uncertainty and suspicion, where every false impression, every misplaced doubt could have easily been avoided had they taken a second to talk to one another. But it's painfully clear that communication and trust are not their strong suits. They rely on nothing save the loneliness they've forged over time, and ironically, it would cost several of them their lives.


Robert M. Lindsey said...

I love the Coens. Blood Simple has to be about the best directorial debut ever. Better than Pulp Fiction in my mind (which is where it counts!).

Dave B. said...

Robert: BLOOD SIMPLE is certainly a brilliant debut film, and quite possibly the best ever (I still might prefer PULP FICTION to it, but both are incredible)

Thanks for the comment!

James Robert Smith said...

This is a genuinely great movie. But it's so painful to watch that I could only sit through it once--the first time I saw it. M. Emmett Walsh proved again that he's a fantastic actor. One of the few times he was able to have a substantial role that was more than a supporting aspect of the story.