A Simple Plan ★★★★★

You work for the American dream, you don't steal it.

Like Fargo without the dark humor, A Simple Plan is a lean, emotional and morally complex tale of backwoods classicism. It's Raimi at his most restrained, rejecting his traditional hyped-up camera movements and comical effects, and instead creating living, thoroughly developed characters in genuine ethical conflict. It's an authentic and believable exploration of the events that would follow three ordinary guys finding 4 million dollars with no strings attached, lacking the hyperbolic reactions and dramatic fluctuations that plague so many films trying to tell the same story. It's a story of bending values, flexible convictions and tenuous trust, set against the general thematic elements of greed, horror, guilt and murder.

The film draws you in, step by step, to the consequences of this morally devious decision. Crimes pile up onto one another and relationships stretch to their breaking points, but instead of taking the easy and more common approach of mocking the absurdity of what unfolds, Raimi thoughtfully ponders them, giving us an insight and feasible justification into the thinking behind each action. His direction is so precise, so confident and patient it's hard to believe this is the same guy who made films like Evil Dead and Drag Me to Hell. Not that those films deserve less merit, but A Simple Plan without a doubt proves Raimi is a film maker with expansive talents and enormous abilities.

The performances in this can best be described as simply flawless. Bill Paxton's lead is crucially relatable, less extravagant than his counterparts but equally powerful. He feels like an everyday sort of guy, and his reactions to various scenarios seem to match up to his personality. Bridget Fonda and Brent Brisco are notably put to the side of the story as the film progresses, but they play their roles with conviction and authenticity, without reaching or straining to expand on the drama that is already inherent within this loaded narrative. And Billy Bob Thornton, wow. Just an incredible, understated and devastating performance that speaks volumes through a character who is less than articulate. He embodies his character, doing away with all of his status in the name of disappearing within the story being told. It truly feels like these characters, no matter their actions, are regular people.

These performances along with Raimi's direction lead to full, rich and involving characters, crucial to the storytelling focus of the film. Heartbreaking, terrifying, suspenseful...Raimi manages to make this rollercoaster of emotions feel meticulously crafted and remarkably efficient, set against the snowy backdrop of a Minnesota winter. It's an old story of dishonor among thieves seen through a different lens, one of sympathy and a real feeling that these decisions have consequences beyond simple laws. It's cool, confident and patient, a film about good people being destroyed not by their demons, but by their desires. A real classic within Raimi's body of work that I would not have discovered had it not been for this marathon.

And the Raimi ranking rolls on

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