Director: Joel Coen
Year: 1996
TRT: 1:38

There really aren't any punches pulled with this one. It's pretty much a straight look at an ineffectual man as he slowly loses what little grip he thought he may have had on the situation, and we see it slowly spiral out of control. It can be rather grim and unsettling as the viewer watches it all take place, drawn into the crime step by step. What really makes this an exceptional film is the counter-balance of black comedy the Coen brothers utilize in the telling, with the mannerisms of the characters telling volumes through their actions, and, well, dialects. William H. Macy is superb as Jerry, trying to escape his dismal life through devious means, and a performance by Frances McDormand that is truly worthy of the Oscar she earned for it. This is top-rate storytelling.

We know right off the bat that Jerry is up to no good, utilizing some "questionable characters" (again, played so well by Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to stage a kidnapping of his wife. But things quickly go awry, and it's like watching a car wreck in slow motion. We want to avert our eyes, but are too fascinated to look away. Local (heavily pregnant) Chief of Police Marge Gunderson approaches the crime reports in a no-nonsense fashion, and steadily digs through the mess while it unfolds. There's some great attention to detail going on here, I can't say enough (and won't, in fear of ruining it for those who have yet to see this film [!?!]), so alls I can say is this film is wholeheartedly recommended for those who want to see an uncompromising crime drama.

I have to mention there is a brief cameo by Bruce "Evil Dead" Campbell as a soap opera actor seen albeit briefly on the television. Just one of those cult-movie factoids I thought I'd throw in there.

Great Scene; When Chief Marge is questioning some local girls on their dates the night before.

DVD Notes: Basic DVD by MGM with both standard & widescreen versions & trailer. Nice menu transitions, for whatever the hell that's worth.