Directed by Sam Raimi (1998)
Reviewed by MaT, added on Nov 11 2006
Sam Raimi is pretty much known for two things nowadays: The Evil Dead Trilogy, and the Spider-Man films (soon to be a trilogy). In between these two hugely popular franchises, he made a little film called A Simple Plan, which is actually brilliant and the best thing he's ever done. It is surprising that most people don't know about this film considering the level of stardom he has achieved. If you are one of the many who have never taken the time to check out Raimi's dark vision of friendship, betrayal, and greed, then consider this your wakeup call.
A Simple Plan is, essentially, a modern day Greek Tragedy. The story is about three men who find a crashed plane in the woods. Inside is a bag filled with $4.4 million dollars. They decide to hold on to the money until spring to make sure nobody is looking for it and once the coast is clear, they'll divy up the money, move out of their small town, and live happily ever after. It's a simple plan, and one that becomes complicated with murder, suspicion, and tragic consequences.
This is the first film that really opened my eyes to how great of a director Raimi is. Raimi achieved fame do to the unique and over-the-top camera work in films like Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, but in A Simple Plan, the off kilter moving camera is nowhere to be seen. Instead, it is replaced with beautiful snow filled cinematography and a static camera whose main focus is to amplify the characters. Raimi doesn't take you out of the film by drawing attention to crazy camera techniques, instead, he uses the most basic of techniques to draw you into the characters and the story. The acting is outstanding, with Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton as two completely opposite brothers who each have different goals and resentments toward each other. Brent Brisco plays the third man, an obnoxious, untrustworthy friend who you think would end up causing the problems, but in typical Greek Tragedy form, it's Paxton's wife (Bridget Fonda) that is the instigator to the sad turn of events that overtake the three characters.
The beauty of A Simple Plan is that the story is instantly relatable to anyone. What would you do if you found four million dollars? What lengths would you go to protect your secrets? At one point, early on in the film after they have first discovered the money and are arguing about whether or not to tell the police or keep it for themselves, Bill Paxton says "You work for the American Dream, you don't steal it." But as with any good tragedy, the evils in the hearts of men override logic. During the climax, when Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) says "I wish somebody else had found that money", it will hit a nerve in everybody.
A Simple Plan is a near flawless film and one of the best films of the 90's that you haven't seen. If you think Raimi is nothing more than style over substance, this film will change your opinion of him dramatically.
The "American Dream" in a gym bag, indeed.