Blood Simple

Year: 1984
Production Co: River Road Productions
Director: Joel Coen
Producer: Ethan Coen
Writer: Joel Coen/Ethan Coen
Cast: Dan Hedaya, Frances McDormand, John Getz, M Emmett Walsh

Like Kurosawa, Blade Runner and Truffaut, I know how beloved the Coen brothers are, but I've honestly just never quite got them. I gather it's because they cut their teeth reworking the noir genre and making it all their own with dollops of the blackest of black comedy, but for the life on me I just couldn't see the appeal of this movie.

The only thing I can attribute all the critical plaudits to is that there was nothing else like it at the time, and because they did it well they stood out, soon accepting the mantle of being the greatest film geniuses of a generation. Or it might just be that – being in my mid teens at the time and in thrall to the MTV-influenced 80s names like Spielberg, Zemeckis et al, this kind of thing just passed me by.

It's the story of a sleazebag (Dan Hedaya) who owns a bar in the sweaty Texas panhandle somewhere, and the bartender (John Getz) who works for him and is having an affair with his wife (Frances McDormand, looking so young she seems barely out of her teens).

But like a lot of noir love stories, the people all seem to be horrible, miserable in themselves and cruel to each other and I wondered why Abby would want to lit out of town with Ray (Getz) at all, so disinterested does he seem in her as a woman.

Marty (Hedaya) is onto them, however, and he recruits an even sleazier private eye, the leering, sweaty, cigarette ash-dusted Loren (M Emmet Walsh) to tail them to get proof. With the proof in hand, Marty accosts Abby at Ray's place, trying to take her back, but Abby fights back ferociously and he beats a hasty, humiliated retreat. Calling Loren back in, Marty tells the PI he wants the couple dead.

But he doesn't count on just how much of a sleazebag Loren is, and a chain of events ensues that results in bloodshed and mistrust across the sweltering suburbs and pitch black highways in the middle of the night.

By that time I'd just lost interest, waiting for something decisive to happen other than just a bunch of low lives all double crossing each other. You could feel it trying to be a black comedy, but it barely raised an eyebrow with me, let alone a wry laugh.

You can't deny the Coens' technical precision as directors, but that doesn't make an interesting story, and this just isn't one. I don't know if it just simmered constantly and needed the odd flash of violence, or if I didn't believe anyone in it or their motivations for what they did – probably a bit of both.

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