Movie Reviews

Movie Review: A Simple Plan – Take the Money and Run

Written by Scott B. Smith
Directed by Sam Raimi

From time to time most people dream about it. You find a bag of money in the woods, seemingly with no owner.  Keep it or turn it in?  That’s pretty much the premise of A Simple Plan, although the characters here do know a bit more when they travel down a road that seems so cut-and-dried at first.

Two brothers, Hank (portrayed by Bill Paxton) and Jacob (portrayed by Billy Bob Thornton) together with Jacob’s friend Lou (portrayed by Brent Briscoe) are hunting in the woods when they discover a downed plane and millions of dollars in cash. Their initial plan is to hide the money and split it on down the line.

Hank is happily married with a baby on the way.  He has a good job and is generally well-respected in the small town he lives in.  Jacob is a bit more dysfunctional.  Neither he nor Lou are the sharpest tools in the drawer, which is part of the complication.  Instead of keeping it to themselves, both Hank and Lou tell their spouses.  Hank’s wife Sarah (portrayed by Bridget Fonda) overthinks everything. Instead of just laying low, she sends them back to cover their tracks, so to speak. This sets in motion a series of events that exposes the greed that exists below the surface even in people who would seem to be the least likely to behave this way.

The acting in A Simple Plan is really good.  I thought Paxton and Thornton really captured the feel of two brothers who have had a hard life and are grasping for the brass ring as it’s coming their way.  Hank has a college education courtesy of his parents but works in a feed store.  Jacob is bitter over having been slighted for his future, with the family farm having been lost.  All he’d like is to get the farm back and go back to farming.  They aren’t bad people, at least not at the beginning of the movie.  What starts out as something so simple, though, becomes complicated and results in all of them behaving in ways they never expected.  The simple, hard life they had will be gone.  Paxton and Thornton carry this well as two brothers who have a bond but are in different places in their lives.

The plot unfolds dramatically but doesn’t feel contrived or sensationalized.  The overthinking and greed cloud their judgment as the story goes on.  Fonda is excellent too as Sarah seems to be the voice of reason in the beginning but it’s soon apparent that she was part of the problem as well. Without her influence, Hank might have done something different early on. They have a good dynamic as a couple and evolve throughout the film.

The cinematography is terrific, with a bleak northern winter setting being the perfect backdrop to the events that take place.  Overall, I thought A Simple Plan was much better than I expected it to be.

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