Blood Simple

Blood Simple Image
Metascore
80

Generally favorable reviews - based on 23 Critics What's this?

User Score
8.7

Universal acclaim- based on 81 Ratings

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  • Starring: ,
  • Summary: This razor-sharp modern film noir, the first film by Joel and Ethan Coen, introduced the brothers’ inimitable black humor and eccentric sense of character, a sensibility that has helped shape the course of contemporary American cinema. Deep in the heart of Texas, a sleazy bar owner suspectsThis razor-sharp modern film noir, the first film by Joel and Ethan Coen, introduced the brothers’ inimitable black humor and eccentric sense of character, a sensibility that has helped shape the course of contemporary American cinema. Deep in the heart of Texas, a sleazy bar owner suspects his wife of having an affair and hires a private detective to confirm his suspicions—only to have the crosshairs turned back on himself. Playfully shot by Barry Sonnenfeld and featuring a haunting score by Carter Burwell and a cunning performance by Frances McDormand, Blood Simple was a career-launching film for this ensemble and the first articulation of the precision of style that has defined the Coens’ work ever since. [Janus Films] Expand

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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 20 out of 23
  2. Negative: 0 out of 23
  1. 100
    If you are squeamish, here is the film to make you squeam.
  2. Rolling Stone
    Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    100
    Savor their technique and the sizzling performances of Frances McDormand as an adulterous wife, Dan Hedaya as her vengeful husband and M. Emmet Walsh as a private detective from hell.
  3. All in all, Blood Simple looks better than ever.
  4. Los Angeles Times
    Reviewed by: Chris Barton
    80
    Don't miss this opportunity to see a film that many believe started the renaissance of indie films as it was intended to be shown.
  5. 80
    Boldly facetious and monstrously clever.
  6. If you can handle its horror-comic grotesquerie, you'll find an enormous amount of cinematic imagination at work.
  7. Revelatory and disappointing.

See all 23 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 17
  2. Negative: 0 out of 17
  1. Aug 19, 2015
    10
    Blood Simple. 1984 ★★★★

    Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Blood Simple.” is an astonishing thriller. Both on a visceral level and on a written one.
    Blood Simple. 1984 ★★★★

    Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Blood Simple.” is an astonishing thriller. Both on a visceral level and on a written one. The characters and plots seem to double back on themselves multiple times in a logical way, and that is what I think is the secret to its total success. It’s the type of thriller every character does something in front of the audience that seems the most logical, but with each character doing their own thing, things become complicated, and we know and remember who knows what, not because we can know what is happening, but because we want to know.

    It should be a compliment to any filmmaker anywhere to know your audience wants to know what its characters know, but even then, somehow, someway, “Blood Simple.” is exceptionally interesting. It’s not a long film, running only 99 minutes, but the movie is kind of one long situation, in three different paths. One involves a Private detective, the girlfriend and her lover. The story is about a cheating wife, whose husband pays a private investigator to watch over her. Once he knows for sure, he makes the decision for him to murder his wife, along with her lover. But things don’t go smoothly. At all. It’s times like these I’d rather not reveal more of the story. But believe me, the story unfolds in an incredibly entertaining way.

    The movie is also a neo noir I assume, but the movie is jam packed with rich, superbly quirky dialogue and ingenious plotting that it doesn’t have time to show off its high tech lush camera. But you do see some great light Technics in a bar, the cinematography is not showy, it only does so to be amusing for the audience to know that the filmmakers know what they are doing. It’s kind of a trust thing, confidence in the audience is giving to the filmmakers to try to impress their audience, but sooner or later, they need a story. And boy does “Blood Simple.” have one. It’s utterly fascinating, every character is given rich and dynamic lines that you’ll want to repeat to yourself after the movie’s over.

    The best performances of the movie, by the way, are great. Especially from Dan Hedaya and M. Emmet Walsh. Hedaya is the kind of actor who doesn’t understand humor, and is always serious, no matter how awkward things get. And Walsh is a very peculiar one. Saying things and laughing as soon as he kills someone. That’s fascinating to me. And “Blood Simple.” has characters like that. Don’t miss it.
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  2. Apr 3, 2016
    9
    'Blood Simple': A Story Worth Repeating.

    Here's what's really new about the rerelease of the Coen Brothers' 1984 debut film, "Blood
    'Blood Simple': A Story Worth Repeating.

    Here's what's really new about the rerelease of the Coen Brothers' 1984 debut film, "Blood Simple," digitally restored and reedited for clarity and speed: not a damn thing.
    Nada, nothing, zilch. Or at least nada, nothing, zilch that you'll notice. According to the press release, some scenes have been shortened, some musical cues improved and the whole thing generally cleaned up, and there's an amusing mock interview with the pseudo-"restorer." None of this will even register.

    Meanwhile, you'll have the same great time.

    Basically, it's still a riff on the inevitability of death and Texas. And in Texas, son, you're on your own, as the detective Loren Visser says with one of his wheezy, sardonic laughs in the early going. Abandon hope, ye who enter the Lone Star State, and pull up to the bar of the Neon Boot for a cold bottle of Jax. What place is this? Where are we now? The news is bad: We are in a dark, carbuncular, cynical, rancid universe. We're in noir hell, where all motives are misunderstood, all love turns foul, all trust twists into deceit, the best-laid plans tangle like barbed wire, and the tune on the juke, over and over again, twanging into the blue night, is that country classic "I'm Just a Bug on the Windshield of Life."

    Nearly everybody ends up dead, in some spectacular fashion, and when the one survivor turns a corner to look upon the face of her antagonist, hoping at last to understand everything, it turns out to be somebody she didn't even know existed, and the stunned look on her face conveys that she understands nothing. The message of the movie: "Ha, ha, joke's on you."

    The movie is essentially a smartass re-imagining of the great James M. Cain's "The Postman Always Rings Twice," with a new and even darker plot strand added. In Cain's classic, a drifter and a wife fell in love and teamed up to murder her hubby, the abusive owner of a roadhouse. The Coen version goes one better: same roadhouse, same relationship between wife and drifter (a bartender now), but it's the husband who tries to murder them.

    The hired killer--a sleazy private eye who drives a VW Beetle to symbolize his order in the place of things; he's a bug--plays everyone for suckers, to make off with 10 grand and nothing pointing at him. See, he thinks he's smarter than everyone, and he is, but he's not smarter than that immense jokester Mr. Fate, who is so busily bouncing the plot off three walls into some of the most crazed rebounds on record.

    It's a movie full of great moments, looking just as fresh as they did in 1984, when the Coens--Joel at that time was an assistant editor on splatter films, Ethan a statistical typist at Macy's--created their dark tapestry. Visser (M. Emmet Walsh, still sweating and wheezing his way around like a slug of pure slimy squalor) still gets his hand pinned to the windowsill by a hunting knife, pounds and shoots his way free and hunts his antagonist by blowing holes in the dark wall with a .45.

    Marty (Dan Hedaya, with a bristle on his chin so intense it should be called a 1 o'clock shadow or maybe a 10 a.m. shadow) still gets buried alive, oozing blood and struggling against his fate, and Ray the bartender (John Getz) still conks him on the head with a shovel as he tries to climb from the grave. As for Ray, he still stands there, confessing his love for Abby (Frances McDormand, soon to become and now still Mrs. Joel Coen), who he thinks has killed her husband, when the high-powered rifle bullet sails through the window and lances him like a boil.

    What good fun!

    What a saucy crew!

    I love the unsettling details. Marty's name isn't Marty O'Donnell, it's Julian Marty, and everybody calls him Marty, even though he's the man of power. Hedaya went on to a fabulous, still strong-running career, but he's so great here: feral, suspicious, sly, mean, cowardly, face eternally blackened by that smear of beard. And the great and wondrous Walsh: so avuncular, so moist with corruption, so unbrushed of teeth and unscrubbed of sin, in his cheesy polyester western suits (he doesn't even wear boots!). And Ray: Lord God, do they make them any dumber than Ray, eternal chump, doomed by love from the start? It's so very nice to have these old friends back again.

    Of course the Coens went on to even more greatness, climaxing in the wondrous "Fargo" of a few years back, and they're about to release a new film, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," which they describe as the third in their "hayseed trilogy" after this film and "Raising Arizona." I can't hardly wait.
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  3. Jul 11, 2014
    8
    Blood Simple, the first Coen brothers film, is a more serious, slow, somber movie whose nuances are the most interesting part of it. TheBlood Simple, the first Coen brothers film, is a more serious, slow, somber movie whose nuances are the most interesting part of it. The brothers didn't have their signature style yet, so the movie doesn't feel like a Coen brothers film, but it's worth watching if you want to see where Joel and Ethan made their start. Expand
  4. Apr 16, 2016
    8
    Blood Simple was truly a sign of things to come from the Coen brothers. Featuring all of their trademark quirk, fantastic characters, botchedBlood Simple was truly a sign of things to come from the Coen brothers. Featuring all of their trademark quirk, fantastic characters, botched plans, and an engaging story, Blood Simple is a fantastic neo-noir crime film from the Coens. The writing is great and the acting, especially Frances McDormand, is very good throughout. The film is also a surprising source of thrills and some horror movie elements (though not a horror movie by any means) in large part thanks to the great score, good sound, and creepy atmosphere fostered by the Coens. The characters truly make this film though as in all Coen brothers films with each of them being completely off-the-wall. Admittedly the blood here caught me off-guard, but it was nothing too bad. Overall, Blood Simple is pitch perfect. Expand
  5. BillC
    Aug 29, 2009
    7
    A movie that doesn't follow a set pattern and you never know what is next. Bravo!
  6. Jul 8, 2014
    6
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Blood Simple: 6 out of 10: Some movies are victims of their own success. Alien is a great film but it seems a little slow nowadays and the plot while very fresh in 1979 has been done to death. (I still love it mind you but if I saw it for the first time this year I would probably wonder what the big deal is) The surprise is gone. I bring that up because at its time Blood Simple was a critics darling. A breath of very fresh air in our nations multiplexes. Not anymore.

    This kind of noir has been done to death since the Coen brothers revived it twenty plus years ago and Blood Simple through no fault of its own suffers as a result. The plot of the jealous husband and double crosses has had so many spins of the same record (1/2 of them seemingly starring Tim Matheson) that the original simply doesn't have the freshness or power it undoubtedly had back in '84.

    The movie has great strengths still however. Seeing Frances McDormand looking this cute reminds me of see Lucille Ball or Bette Davis in one of their first films when they were sex objects. And while John Getz gets swallowed up in his straight role Dan Hedaya (Cheers) on the other hand plays sleazy so well I forget I have seen it so many times since.

    Overall very well done if slightly slow paced and certainly worth a view just too familiar to encourage a repeat viewing.
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  7. Nov 20, 2015
    5
    Though this freshman effort may provide promising hints into the beautiful careers that would develop over time from the Coen brothers, "BloodThough this freshman effort may provide promising hints into the beautiful careers that would develop over time from the Coen brothers, "Blood Simple" itself is an ultimately unsatisfying film with uninspired characters and a sluggish pace. Expand

See all 17 User Reviews

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