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Wick's Review

Created Sep 14, 2014 12:06AM PST • Edited May 14, 2022 09:18PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Perfect 5.0

    The slippery slope of crime reached a peak cinematic representation in A Simple Plan. An ill-gotten gain sets the plot in motion, after which the movie follows an exquisite slide into further felonious excitations. This scratches several erogenous zones for lovers of crime cinema. We so enjoy viewing the wages of sin.

    Sam Raimi is a hit-or-miss director, but his hits are huge, with A Simple Plan an overlooked gem. He gave it a horror ethos. Everybody gets killed, or at least it starts to seem that way, not surprising from the man who created The Evil Dead, which Viewguide MJ5K considers a Perfect movie, as I consider this one.

    Raimi didn’t write A Simple Plan. Scott Smith did, the eponymous novel it’s taken from also, his first movie and damn near his last. It grossed $16 million. No wonder Smith became a retired writer with that kind of bodacious payday. He also received an Oscar nomination for Writing the Adapted Screenplay, an accomplishment of rare magnitude. Hell it’s rare for writers to get any respect in Hollywood at all, let alone to adapt their first novel into a movie, and then receive Academy recognition. Yep, Smith got out on top.

    From its brilliant leitmotif of a fox in a henhouse – the movie actually opens with a fox causing all kinds of hell in a henhouse and on the road, to its Fargo-esque Minnesotan settings, Smith & Raimi’s thriller never makes a false move, even as it cleverly chronicles one false move after another by its hapless human actors.

    Those actors – that star-studded cast – never did better work than in A Simple Plan.

    • Bill Paxton, the domestic king, an obedient beast of burden, is pictured above with his perfect wife & dim brother. Paxton’s done great work seemingly forever, with A Simple Plan quintessential.
    • Billy Bob Thornton got nominated for an Oscar as Paxton’s older brother, now a fortyish loser who exhibits occasional flashes of insight. It’s an expected and surprising performance from the master of Middle-American masculinity, coming just two years after Sling Blade earned him entrance into Hollywood’s upper echelon. A year later he would take up with Angelina Jolie.
    • Bridget Fonda starred in A Simple Plan a year after she lit up Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. Her transformation from innocent-perfect-wife to conniving-perfect-wife is perfectly played.

    A Simple Plan ultimately comes down to “What about me?”, as morality tales about filthy lucre must. Thus Smith’s story remains terrifically human even as it becomes terribly cold-blooded. All the while new secrets get created and old secrets get revealed. That’s one way to craft a Perfect Movie, which A Simple Plan is.

  3. Perfect 5.0

    Billy Bob Thornton got the Oscar nomination and understandably so. He does far and away the most acting, in terms of playing a character who’s far from normal. Well, his dim-bulb and hard drinking loser is eminently more normal than his Carl Childers in Sling Blade, but that’s an extreme standard.

    Bill Paxton delivers a quintessential Paxton performance as the successful brother: college educated, professionally employed, married to a perfect wife. Paxton has made a career out of such Domestic Beast of Burden roles, including for five seasons as the patriarch of Big Love.

    Bridget Fonda gives murderous advice while breastfeeding, a perfect scene from a Hollywood Princess. Come back Bridget, we miss you.

    Chelcie Ross is a great character actor who often plays bad guys, yet here plays the cheerful Sheriff. He’s terrific, perhaps his best role ever.

    Brent Briscoe excels as a nasty townie with a bad drinking habit and worse manners, so is completely natural as Thornton’s running buddy.

    Gary Cole appears briefly but effectively.

  4. Male Stars Perfect 5.0
  5. Female Stars Perfect 5.0
  6. Female Costars Perfect 5.0
  7. Male Costars Perfect 5.0
  8. Really Great 4.5

    A conceptually perfect story, surprising yet following perfectly natural rhythms, coupled with a horror director’s fatalism, makes A Simple Plan an exceptionally enjoyable film.

    That story triggers crime in a milieu where there’s none, with criminal behavior triggered in those who are normally innocents. Those innocents learn that unearned windfalls carry a grievous cost.

    The perfectly natural rhythms include a pair of brothers stuck together in an uneasy fraternal bond, their shared memories and differences going back to boyhood, their grievances just as deep.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0
  10. Play Really Great 4.5

    “Yeah, in my wildest fuckin’ dreams a Trans-Am!” is a great line, in a script full of them.

  11. Music Great 4.0
  12. Visuals Really Great 4.5

    Duct-tape glasses on Billy Bob Thornton are one of many perfect touches.

    Notable Credits

    • 4 stuntmen is a modest sized crew.
    • 3 puppeteers are a surprising credit for a live-action film.
    • Snow effects crew
  13. Content
  14. Sordid 2.6

    It gets wonderfully brutal. Really.

  15. Sex Titillating 1.9
  16. Violence Brutal 3.0
  17. Rudeness Profane 2.8
  18. Glib 1.3

    Impressively real for a movie from a horror director, A Simple Plan only plays with one form of reality. Even then, its CircoReality measures a mere 2x normal. What we have here is a horror movie done with reality restraint.

  19. Circumstantial Glib 2.0
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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Sep 14, 2014 7:05AM

Regarding Wick’s Review
Sounds like a great find. Billy Bob Thornton was made for crime cinema.