The first shot of Blood Simple, the first Coen Brothers’ movie ever, begins the same way as their latest film, No Country for Old Men. It starts off with stills of vast, empty Texas landscapes. You might think that nothing lives here, with only slight hints of man’s corruption of the land and the world. Over the images is the voice of a mysterious, unseen narrator. He sounds like an old man, sharing his thoughts about what the world has become and the dark road it’s heading in.
Blood Simple is no simple film. It is a masterwork of twists, turns, shocks, and bloodshed. It changes direction so suddenly and only hopes the audience is following. There is no Anton Chigurh type super-villain in this movie but each of the ordinary characters fall into madness is scary enough.
It starts off with bar owner Ray (John Getz) whose fed up with his cheating wife (Frances McDormand, in a star-making role). So he hires Private Eye Loren Visser (brilliant M. Emmet Walsh) to track down his wife and her lover (Dan Hedaya) and kill them both. Nothing goes down as quick and easy as Ray hopes, and before he knows it he gets double-crossed and nothing gets better from there. A long trail of blood ensues.
This is the first film from auteurs Joel & Ethan Coen but it feels more like a master director at work rather than a debut feature. Each scene is handled so well and so unpredictably that viewers will be tantalized with suspense. Each turn of events is as surprising to the audience as it is to each character. Also, the Coens show their trademark care for character details. Even the smaller stuff, from how someone ties their shoes to how another one gets rid of a dead body is handled with meticulous detail and care. And so much depth is put into each character it’s impossible to know who to root for and who to root against. This could be why the Coen Brothers are still one of the best in the business today.
In Blood Simple the Coen Brothers ponder some of the same themes and ideas about life as they do in all of their films; what is the value of a life? Can you alter fate? In a situation of murder, betrayal, and thievery, whose the bad guy? And for that matter, whose the good guy? Well, this is a world where no one is truly good and no one is truly evil. It’s up to you to decide what path you want to go on. And as Loren explains in the film’s first few minutes of narration, “…but what I know about is Texas, an’ down here… you’re on your own.”
An extraordinary film that’s greatly violent and devastating with a touch of humor, Blood Simple is a movie that must be seen by anyone with a love for the art of film.