From the celebrated filmmaking team of Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, No Country For Old Men), comes this visually stunning tale of a double-cross - and murder - in a small town. Starring John Getz, Frances McDormand and Dan Hedaya this "fiendishly clever" (Roger Ebert) movie will grab you by the throat - and never let go until the final frame!
When Marty (Hedaya), the owner of a backwoods bar, hires a man to kill his cheating wife and her boyfriend, he opens a door into the criminal world that he'll never be able to shut. The sleazy hit man (M. Emmet Walsh) decides instead to shoot Marty, thereby collecting his unearned fee and eliminating the only person who could implicate him. Or so he thinks. Featuring the maddeningly taut script from the Coen Brothers, Blood Simple hurtles forward with the speed and intensity of a fired bullet... and delivers as devastating an impact as has ever been felt from a noir film!
'Blood Simple' is the debut film from Joel and Ethan Coen, igniting a unique sibling collaboration that's lasted for three decades and has produced some of the most fascinating and beloved films for cinephiles everywhere. Other than being an instant critical success, the crime thriller demonstrated and prefigured the duo's distinctive filmmaking style with a penchant for bleak, dark comedy set in a noirish mise en scène. This movie, as in all the others that soon followed, reveals their love for film in general and for working within strict genre structures without hindering their ability to entertain. They inform their first feature greatly with subtle nuance from various elements and inspirations that serve as homage while at the same time coming across as surprisingly fresh and inspiring.
The plot is fairly simple, and perhaps even standard, which can be easily argued as a weak point or a clear fault within the script. As it centers on an adulterous love affair, the tale slowly expands into murder, a double cross and an attempt to cover up the crime. For this to work and play out as it does, the film includes a good deal of misinformation and misunderstanding on the part of our two main characters, played by Frances McDormand and John Getz. In fact, the Coen brothers open with the couple already in the middle of a private conversation that doesn't seem entirely comprehensible. Neither comes out and plainly states what they mean or what they want from one another, and this only worsens when they suspect each other of murder but fail to say it outright.
But 'Blood Simple' is not about people doing the right thing. It's a film about average, everyday people making bad — even stupid — decisions under some extraordinarily violent circumstances. We as the viewing audience, and to some degree even as witnesses, are not privy to their inner thoughts though we can gather the reasons behind their actions through their reactions. It's part of what makes them so intriguing and interesting to watch. They respond according to their own logic given the situation they seem themselves caught in, revealing a darker side to their personality which even they were perhaps unaware of. What matters is that these characters have their reasons, are confident of them and act upon them, even at the risk of their own safety and sanity.
The film is also more concerned with experimenting in technique and camerawork, an exercise on the limitations of convention in order to deliver something seemingly inventive and new. While celebrating classic film noir and playing with overt Hitchcockian themes, the sibling duo carefully toys with aspects of horror, creating an apprehensive environment which strings viewers along with bated breath. There are several scenes which can be rightfully pointed out to demonstrate this, but only one in particular has lingered as remarkably haunting. Starting with the discovery of the body and ending with an innocent phone call the next morning, the burial sequence is nearly thirty brilliant minutes without dialogue, yet it's astonishingly suspenseful and highly expressive.
With cinematography by a then-unknown Barry Sonnenfeld, 'Blood Simple' is a beautifully crafted exercise in neo-noir, marking the startlingly and decidedly impressive debut of the Coen brothers. It's a stylishly atmospheric crime thriller in which the sibling duo shares their love and knowledge of film, revealing that much can be gained from convention so long as it's done right. Even the plot comes with a kind of familiarity to it, where the way in which the story unfolds is none too surprising. But the dark, moody photography and excellent camerawork creates a rather elegantly lyrical pace in the narrative which is incredibly engaging with immersive, nail-biting suspense. It's a must watch for any Coen fan.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox and MGM Home Entertainment bring 'Blood Simple' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD50 disc housed in a blue eco-case. At startup, viewers are taken straight to the main menu with full-motion clips and music. The movie is also the 96-minute Director's Cut of the film and commences with a sarcastic intro about the film's restoration process.
The Coen brother's debut film creeps its way unto Blu-ray with an excellent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1) that fans will appreciate.
Given its age and film stock, there are some scenes which seem softer than others, but on the whole, definition and resolution are outstanding and revealing. Fine lines and objects are very nicely detailed and distinct with rich, lifelike texture in clothing, hair and facial complexions. Contrast is bright and crisp, maintaining terrific clarity and visibility of background info. Delineation in nighttime and low-lit sequences is strong, except when shadows are intentionally meant to overwhelm and obscure lightly. The color palette is quite extensive and energetic, which creates a sense of irony to the plot's overall theme, with primaries appearing particularly bold and vibrant. Black levels are also exceptional with a deep, penetrating rendering that adds to the story's mystery and suspense.
All in all, this is by far the very best 'Blood Simple' has ever looked on home video and a joy to watch.
The anxiety-riddled crime thriller arrives as well with a strong and generally good DTS-HD Master Audio in the film's original stereo design.
Most everything is presented in the front soundstage with a well-balanced channel separation and an attractively wide imaging. Dynamic range is somewhat limited though it maintains clarity and precision surprisingly great during the few moments of action. Low bass is rather anemic and unimpressive, which shouldn't come as much of a shock considering the movie's origins and budget. Song selections and music make the biggest impact and a clear improvement to previous releases. Dialogue and character interactions are fairly clear and intelligible, but there is a strange effect where voices are not always in the proper location within the soundfield. It could be the result of the original recording and not a fault in the high-rez transfer.
The lossless mix displays an appealing and engaging presence with little to complain about.
This Blu-ray edition of 'Blood Simple' arrives with the same bonus features as the previous DVD release from a few years ago.
'Blood Simple' is a beautifully crafted crime thriller, expressively celebrating the mystery and suspense of classic film noir. Starring Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, M. Emmet Walsh, and John Getz, the 1984 movie also marks the impressive debut of Joel and Ethan Coen, a sibling team that has produced an amazing collection of films. The Blu-ray features an excellent video presentation and strong audio, but supplements are very sadly lacking. Overall, the package is worthwhile for fans and highly recommended for others.