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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Funny Business

Blood Simple. (1984) on IMDb

Plot Overview

[narrator:] The world is full o' complainers. An' the fact is, nothin' comes with a guarantee. Now I don't care if you're the pope of Rome, President of the United States or Man of the Year; somethin' can all go wrong. Now go on ahead, y'know, complain, tell your problems to your neighbor, ask for help, 'n watch him fly. Now, in Russia, they got it mapped out so that everyone pulls for every­one else ... that's the theory, anyway. But what I know about is Texas, an' down here ... you're on your own.

A bartender Ray (John Getz) asks his boss's wife Abby (Frances McDormand) seated next to him on a drive into the Texas night, “What're you gonna do in Houston?” The lady replies, “I'll figure some­thing out.” Stopped out­side a motel they discover a mutual attraction and ask each other, “What do you wanna do?”

Private detective Loren Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) delivers some compromising photos to Texas bar owner Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) who feels like shooting the messenger. Instead he hires him to kill the erring couple, but Loren gets creative. When things go wrong, it all goes wrong.


In the sphere of religious authority (“the pope of Rome”), the highest on earth, the Bible, says, (Prov. 30:21-23) “For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear: For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat; For an odious woman when she is married; and an hand­maid that is heir to her mistress.” That corresponds in the civil sphere (“President of the U.S.”) to affirmative action (i.e. “a servant when he reigneth”), liberal welfare policy (i.e. “a fool when he is filled with meat”), liberated attached women, Ms. (i.e. “an odious woman when she is married”), and a house­wife who lets her job trump her domestic duties (i.e. “an hand­maid that is heir to her mistress.”) For these four things the world gets out of wack, “the earth is disquieted, and … it cannot bear.” We experience these tensions in one form or another in modern life, so in this movie's sphere (“Man of the Year”—Loren's lighter identifies him as “Elks' Man of the Year”) we can laugh at our­selves through the film's symbols. “A servant when he reigneth” is the PI who takes it upon himself to assassinate the guy who hired him. “A fool when he is filled with meat” is the guy who contracts a hit, goes out of town fishing to establish an alibi (“Who looks stupid now?”), but hasn't the appetite to eat the stinking fish. Also the guy who asked at the bar for “a discount for alcoholics”. “An odious woman when she is married” is Abby who won't tone down her personality when it disturbs her admittedly “anal” husband (“He took me to a psychiatrist one time, to calm me down.”) And “an hand­maid that is heir to her mistress” is Abby's “little pearl-handled .38” that seems to have a mind of its own regarding who gets shot rather then being the instrument of the shooter. These are the four “somethin' [that] can all go wrong” causing us to instinctively laugh when we perceive our own world reflected in the movie. It's caused when people aren't good troupers “pull[ing] for every­one else” but acting as every man for him­self (“you're on your own.”)

The radio evangelist (Rev. William Preston Robertson) referred to Matt. 6:18, saying “These are the signs by which we know He is at the door.” That is the end verse of the section, (Matt. 6:16-18) “More­over when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” The narrator started out “Blood Simple” saying, “The world is full o' complainers.” The biggest I can recall is Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) who in his Letter From Birmingham Jail listed a string of heart-wrenching grievances justifying his breaking the civil law (i.e. marching w/o a parade permit), criticizing the clergy for their "gradualism" approach to race reform, and preaching "the fierce urgency of NOW!" David in the Bible had worse grievances, but he respected the civil authority (King Saul), and eventually was exalted king by stages. For all the hubbub resulting in federal inter­vention, race relations haven't improved as much as one would have thought. That's the intro to this movie.

The icon of America's civil rights movement is Rosa Parks a seamstress in the South who one night after work was sitting in the first row of the Negro section of the bus when the bus got crowded and the driver asked her to give up her seat for a White passenger. She was tired and decided to defend her seat (not unusual), and MLK latched onto this incident to demand an end of segregation. They are famous for it. In “Blood Simple” a comparable situation but with a different response is encountered when Negro bar­tender Meurice (Samm–Art Williams) covered for White bar­tender Ray when Ray didn't show up for his shift:

Meurice: “Howdy stranger.”

Ray: “Meurice. Sorry I didn't show last night.”

Meurice: “Wasn't too busy.”

Meurice was the one level-headed guy in the whole movie. He's a real trouper “pull[ing] for every­one else.” The bar is named Neon Boots, and Meurice was given one cool intro doing some fancy foot­work in his boots on the bar. He contrasts nicely with the rest of the characters who are all out for number one. He would tend to elevate the image of African-Hamericans, being a contrast to a seam­stress who doesn't cut much of an heroic figure just sitting there.

Production Values

Blood Simple” (1984) was written, directed, and produced by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen. It stars John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, M. Emmet Walsh and Samm–Art Williams. Dan Hedaya has phenomenal lasting power for some­one who's been shot. Frances McDormand is young and good looking. John Getz's character is a bit touched and hard to figure out. Emmet Walsh is out­standing playing the private detective with a sardonic sense of humor. These five take care of most of the speaking parts. The acting is mostly well done, how­ever not top form.

The movie is rated R. It was filmed in Pflugerville, Texas, USA. It's sprinkled with Motown bar music, and Carter Burwell's score blending slow piano with a palpitating low base beat. This complex, stylish neo-noir film is coupled with beautiful cinema­tog­raphy by Barry Sonnenfeld. The camera work is interesting. This low budget Coen brothers' first release was popularized by festival goers before they'd acquired their reputation.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

Audiences loved it, and I did, too. It's not showy, but it continuously thwarts expectations and so maintains a high interest level. Things go wrong and just keep on that way until the very last zinger. Don't miss this one.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Special effects: Average special effects. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.