An endless white landscape of rolling hills and snow-blanketed forests. A lonely acoustic score (by Danny Elfman) playing in the background. A vision of rural simplicity portrayed in hushed tones. The stillness is about t... more »o shatter. Brothers Hank (Bill Paxton), an accountant at a small-town feed store, and Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton), an unemployed, hygienically challenged dim bulb, accompanied by Jacob's oafish pal Lou (Brent Briscoe), stumble across a downed plane in the brush containing a corpse and a sack containing millions of dollars--surely the aftermath of a drug deal, they conclude. Greed overcomes good sense, and the three agree to hide the money for a year and keep the secret to themselves. A simple plan indeed, and it doesn't take long for it to go all to hell as the lure of wealth tears at kinship and friendship, and the ruthless machinations of impetuous partners leave a body count in its wake. Bridget Fonda costars as Hank's wife, whose initial hesitation gives way to cold-blooded plotting. Sam Raimi, best known for wowing audiences with stylistic gymnastics and manic mayhem, directs this quietly desperate thriller with chilly restraint, finding its cold, tragic heart in the estranged relationship between Hank and Jacob: the college boy blind to the truth of his own family and the town loser whose tortured soul reveals a humanity lost on his brother (a brilliant performance by Thornton). Adapted by Scott B. Smith from his acclaimed novel. --Sean Axmaker« less
William W. (wdavidw) from TYLER, TX Reviewed on 9/14/2010...
One of Sam Raimi's films, but one that you usually don't think of by him. It's a mystery and asks the question: What if you found a lot of money, what would you do? Unfortunately for the men portrayed in the film, they decide to keep it, and then their life spins out of control. The film is sort of dark and edgy, but smartly done.
A Simple Plan (1998)
The Tweeder | Indianapolis, Indiana | 07/20/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Director: Sam Raimi Cast: Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, Bridget Fonda, Brent Briscoe, Jack Walsh, Chelcie Ross, Becky Ann Baker, Gary Cole, Bob Davis. Running Time: 121 minutes Rated R for violence and language.
This is a diabolical tale about the wages of greed. Although it is played straight without intentional humor, the irony is so delicious at times that you might find yourself laughing. Jacob Mitchell (Billy Bob Thornton) is the one who begins to feel evil, and rightly so as the bodies begin to pile up. His presumably smarter brother Hank (Bill Paxton) feels mostly fear as he struggles to cover up one mishap after another. Their problems begin when they and Jacob's buddy Lou Chambers (Brent Briscoe) stumble onto a downed airplane in the woods covered with snow in which they find one dead person being feasted on by crows and a duffle bag full of hundred dollar bills. Lou, who might represent the common man, says, let's keep it. Hank, who could be rational man, says, whoa, this money belongs to somebody and besides we could get into trouble. We better turn it in. And Jacob, who is the natural man, sides with his buddy Lou. After all they're country poor and this is probably drug money that nobody is going to miss. And anyway, what can go wrong?
Well, as Ben Franklin observed a long time ago, `Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.' As they wait for spring to come and the plane to be discovered before they risk spending the money, the `simple plan' begins to unravel with horrific consequences. Thornton and Briscoe play country boys to perfection, and Paxton does a great job as a small town golden boy seriously compromised. Bridget Fonda plays Hank's pregnant wife, who turns out to be the brains (as it were) of the group. There are some very nice plot twists as the all too human emotions of the characters begin to crash into one another. Inevitably we have a morality tale in which the wages of sin are fully realized. Sam Raimi's ("The Evil Dead", "Spiderman) direction captures well the atmosphere of North Country America without any obvious straining for effect. He gets great mileage out of a few crows (actually some of them are ravens, I think) and a whole lot of snow. Scott B. Smith's script (from his novel) is clever and morally astute. The characterizations are excellent and the story psychologically satisfying. Particularly agreeable was the very sad, ironic end for Hank and his wife, who find that all the self-created hell they went through led them back to where they began, but without their souls. A dark message about greed and honesty is a topsy-turvey roller-coaster ride with beautiful cinematography and slick direction from horror-master Raimi. Not one for those who need a cheering-up session. "
Brilliant acting and direction for this quiet thriller.
D. Litton | Wilmington, NC | 01/31/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Proving that thrillers needn't exhaust audiences with bloated special effects and heavy doses of machine gun-fire, "A Simple Plan" joyously recalls the days when suspensers were more about suspense than pyrotechnics. Setting the story in the cold wintry woodlands of Minnesota, Scott B. Smith's screenplay dabbles in such engrossing elements as greed, consequence, and desperation, piling on plot twist after plot twist until the intensity almost becomes unbearable. Bill Paxton plays Hank Mitchell, a working-class man who works at a local feed store to support he and his pregnant wife, Sarah, played by Bridget Fonda. He has a brother, Jacob, who is played by Billy Bob Thornton; Jacob, along with his pal Lou Chambers (Brent Briscoe), are the town's resident drunks. One snowy day, after a visit to their father's grave, Hank and Jacob, with Lou along for the ride, have an accident that sends Jacob's dog running into the woods. While looking for the dog, they come across a downed charter plane, its pilot dead, with a gym bag of four million dollar in tow. The three waste no time tearing into the bag of "lost treasure," despite Hank's reservations about keeping the money. But Jacob and Lou have other plans, those which do not include alerting the proper authorities as to their recent find. After a heated argument, they agree that they will wait to split the money until they feel certain that no one will come looking for it. Just for safekeeping, Hank takes charge of the money, which soon takes charge of his good-hearted nature. As the plot thickens, things begin to work into a frenzy. Sarah, now overcome with the idea of a wealthy life, urges Hank to keep a close watch on Lou, as well as Jacob, who becomes increasingly unstable as things reach new heights of desperation. The murder of a local farmer at the hands of Hank throws a new piece of leverage into the game, leading him to develop a new plan of making himself look completely innocent. More complications begins to arise, and soon, no one is left untouched. Director Sam Raimi, whose previous work includes the wildly outrageous "Evil Dead" series, takes a unique turn in his career, directing Smith's screenplay (adapted from his own novel) with attention to story, action and character traits in equal measure. He is careful not to overburden his audience with too much at one time, clearing up one matter before introducing another so that each new development carries its own importance to the story. He also manages to keep things moving at a brisk pace, so as not to sink the movie into periods of boredom. The script itself is one of the most chilling and satisfying I've seen in some time. It focuses on the effects of greed on mankind, turning the most well-intentioned of all townspeople into desperate, money-hungry slaves, replacing trust and good judgment with suspicion and rationalization. These changes are seen in each of the characters, most notably Hank and Sarah, whom we care for as the film opens, and utterly despise once it ends. Jacob, however, remains as the sole character with a grip on reality, overcome by his fears and his remorse for his actions; in the face of his brother's struggle to keep their twisted operation alive, he merely wants it all to come to an end and return to his life. Fleshing out these characters appears to have been no simple task, but Paxton, Fonda, Thornton and Briscoe live up to the challenge. "A Simple Plan" portrays some of their best work, as well as that of Raimi's, who supercharges his otherwise quiet film with a terrific amount of underlying suspense that arises not solely from the grizzly crimes of its characters, but also from their unsettling states of mind once things get out of hand."
Devastating portrait of how greed ruins men's souls
Kenji Fujishima | East Brunswick, NJ USA | 06/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Before watching A SIMPLE PLAN, I saw THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, John Huston's 1948 classic that also tackled the same subject as this film. Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) allowed greed to get the best of him, and it destroyed him. But Huston wrapped this little tragedy in the adventure genre, and while it was indeed a thrilling adventure, Dobbs' downfall in Huston's film doesn't seem (on a visceral level, at least) quite as tragic as what happens to the major characters in Sam Raimi's film.The major difference that perhaps makes A SIMPLE PLAN more powerful as an examination of greed than SIERRA MADRE is this: Huston's main characters went looking for riches in a land known to be full of 'em, so they didn't have to necessarily worry about being caught stealing anything---Dobbs & Co. only had to worry about other people trying to steal their gold. Hank (Bill Paxton), Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton), and Lou (Brent Briscoe) accidentally find $4.4 million in unmarked American currency in a downed plane in a quiet, snowy Minnesota town, and the moment they decide to steal the money for themselves (and that is basically what they decide to do, although they certainly try to convince themselves that it's not stealing) is the moment that changes all of their lives forever.In SIERRA MADRE, Walter Huston's character talked early in the film about how he's seen money destroy men's souls. That is exactly what happens to the characters in A SIMPLE PLAN. It leads Hank to coldblooded murder, it leads Hank's wife (Bridget Fonda) to become a modern version of Lady Macbeth, and it drives Jacob to despair. In one key moment, Jacob confesses to Hank that he "feels evil," and that just about sums up the movie's theme succinctly. While Huston's film also worked as a grand adventure tale, Raimi's film is more in the bleak, film noir style of the Coen Brothers' FARGO, right down to its Minnesota setting and constantly falling snow. It sometimes feels like a suspense-thriller (especially towards the end), but there are no stylish, bombastic action scenes here in the manner of Raimi's earlier films---just a lot of quietly devastating moments and flashes of quick but shocking violence. It's the emotional violence done to these characters, though, that reverberates throughout the whole film.The performances are all powerfully convincing across the board, and while some might take issue with the plausibility of some of the plot twists in the film's later moments (I can't believe that no one actually bothered to ask to see that person's badge just to make sure he was who he said he was), that is hardly enough to detract from the tragic cumulative impact of this film. Highly recommended."
A Twisted Brilliant Thriller
Martin A Hogan | San Francisco, CA. (Hercules) | 10/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Director Sam Raimi crafts this story from the best seller. Set in a cold, wintry rural landscape, Brothers Hank (smart accountant Bill Paxton) and Jacob (dim-witted Billy Bob Thornton), along with Jacob's equally dumb friend Lou (Brent Briscoe), find a downed plane full of four million dollars. The pilot is dead and no one else knows about it. Could it be drug money? Sounds simple. However, family, greed and common sense don't always mix and the story soon goes haywire. No need to give away anything else other than there is an unexpected body count and an ending that will shock. This is one of those sleeper hits that never fails to surprise and delight. Bridget Fonda costars as Paxton's wife who goes through her own metamorphosis. "
What A Tangled Web We Weave.....A superb, psychological dram
The Jaundiced Eye | Texas, USA | 08/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a brilliantly acted and directed look at the effects of greed on seemingly normal people. Bill Paxon and Bridget Fonda portray a happily married couple with a child on the way...Billy Bob portrays Paxon's brother, as (what seems to be) a dim-witted, worthless bum....and Brent Briscoe portrays Billy Bob's best friend, another unemployed bum, who is actually flattered to be called "The Town Drunk".
The three men discover a huge sum of money ($4.4 million) and talk themselves out of turning it in to the authorities, preferring instead to follow a "simple plan": hide it for a year, until "the heat is off" and then split it up and leave town. After all it is probably "dirty money" from some drug deal, and no one will be the worse for it....right? Unfortunately, the magnitude of this windfall is so great that it joins forces with the inherent weaknesses of human nature to completely undermine this "simple plan" and wreak havoc upon our "seemingly normal" characters, their neighbors, and associates.
The film is often compared to the Coen Brothers' "Fargo", partially due to the stark, expansive, snowy setting, but I feel that it also compares quite favorably to their first, classic 1984 film "Blood Simple", in which another "simple plan" leads to an ungodly tangle of murder and mayhem. Watch both, and you decide.
There are several violent plot twists, but to me the most impressive twists were of the psychological kind, and thus perhaps too subtle for those interested only in "blood and guts". Billy Bob turns in a magnificent performance as he gradually reveals himself to be not the dim-witted bum we thought, but a kind, sensitive, intelligent, and ultimately compelling individual. The Paxon role, a college-educated accountant, dripping with self-professed superiority and always "putting on airs" around his bumpkin cohorts, degenerates into much the opposite of our initial favorable impression, with the full encouragement and counsel of his "Lady Macbeth" wife, played by Bridget Fonda.
The most important feature of this movie, however, is that every move and decision....every action and reaction, are all very well justified by the characters, dialog, and events....all are quite plausible. You might not agree with all they do, but you definitely understand why they do it. Too often in movies like this, the characters do crazy, improbable things that we would never do, and thus lose our empathy and support...but in this movie, the plot and dialog are so beautifully crafted that we remain interested and concerned until the very end. I assure you that you will be deeply affected by the climatic scene.
All actors rendered superb performances; in several cases, probably the best of their careers, and the direction (by horror-maven Sam Raimi), stark settings, haunting background music (Danny Elfman), cinematography, etc. are all exceptional. If you enjoy a mature, complex, psychologically-challenging plot that is beautifully presented, you will enjoy this movie. It is disturbing, engaging, and (sadly) all too possible."