lobsta’s review published on Letterboxd:
More Fargo-y than ever since Billy Bob Thorton's casting in the recent (and excellent) TV reimagining, A Simple Plan is marred by the similarities but stands alone as a dark tale examining the motives and morality of (small town) America and its audience.
So insignificant and small town they barely register in the arctic white frame, Hank (Bill Paxton), simpleton brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thorton) and his rube friend Lou (Brent Briscoe) stumble upon airplane marked by death and a fortune for their troubles. Blowing them into central focus whether or not they'll kill each other to keep it, as allegiances, lies and motives are questioned and examined leading to a dark but thrilling conclusion of doubt, suspicion and the predatory nature of survival of the fittest.
An interesting focus of the film is the internal drama of its central bumbling figure Hank and whether or not he is an innocent man pushed by extreme circumstances and by family or whether he will be corrupted by greed or has he always been a morally corrupted individual just enhanced by circumstance. Where other characters are characterized as 'simple folk' that don't necessarily know better than a reactionary response, Hank (college graduate but hardly the intellectual) is shown to be intellectually culpable for the actions taken.
The atmospheric white setting juxtaposes the black nature of the material in a similar way to Fargo, but Sam Raimi seems to use this to highlight moral ambiguity of the actions taken and the influence audiences perception of them. The film itself also reminds me more of a noir flick with Sarah (Bridget Fonda) pushing the story along and with her great monologue(ish), with sad desperate men fighting over the money. The stylistic Coen's touch is obviously absent with a relatively straight Sam Raimi direction, which is solid but occasionally jarring since Fargos lasting impact.
Would have been interesting to watch pre-fargo, but its still an interesting, twisting tale of small town depravity, and the visual juxtapositions are great.