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By Ron Wells | December 7, 1998

At last we have a new Sam Raimi film. I get the feeling that Raimi sat in the theatre watching “Fargo” by his old cohorts and housemates, the Coen Brothers, and said to himself, “I could do that.” Thus we have his version and latest attempt to be taken seriously, “A Simple Plan”.
Hank (Bill Paxton) is an accountant at a feed store in a small rural town in the midwest. It’s winter, pouring down snow, when he, his brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thorton), and his friend Lou (Brent Briscoe) visit the graves of Hank’s and Jacob’s parents. After a near accident on the way home, they discover the wreckage of a small plane in the woods. Inside, there’s a duffel bag containing $4.4 million dollars. Lou, the stupidest of the three, talks the other two into hiding the money for six months, and keeping it if no one claims it. Thanks to the resulting moral vacuum, they won’t last that long.
We get two things we don’t really expect of Raimi, SUBTLETY and DEPTH. This film echoes Von Stroheim’s “Greed” more than Raimi’s “Darkman”. Not one character is refused a soul. Thornton’s Jacob initially comes across as the love child of Elmer Fudd and Butthead, but ends up as the best role he’s ever had. Once money of that size is thrown at these characters who are just scraping by, it takes less than a day for them to escalate to murder. Bridget Fonda, as Hank’s very pregnant wife, gives the most cold-blooded performance of her life. Everyone thinks they’re happy at the beginning, but the cash reveals the future they can’t have.
It’s about time Raimi, living large off of TV’s “Hercules” and “Xena”, made good on the talent he’s displayed before. This is his first movie not aimed at 15 year-old boys. No one would like to see him make another “Evil Dead 2” more than me, but it’s nice to see him devote more time to the actors than the camerawork. Raimi has been capable of being one of America’s greatest directors for over 10 years now, and I’m glad he’s no longer marginalized in the way that Wes Craven has been. Perhaps Raimi can resurrect Ash and the Evil Dead when he’s finished resurrecting Kevin Costner’s career in the new baseball movie, “For the Love of the Game”.

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