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Cranky Critic® Reviews:A Simple Plan

A Simple Plan

Rated R
Starring Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton and Bridget Fonda
Screenplay by Scott B. Smith, based on his novel
Directed by Sam Raimi
Website: www.asimpleplan.com

IN SHORTThey'll love it in West Virginia . . .

I was going to say Arkansas, but that could be perceived as a diss on that fine state. WV comes in a close second, and Cranky has family there so you can extract any slam right on back to this New Yorker.

It's a real strange thing about A Simple Plan, from director Sam Raimi. Cranky knows of Raimi's great ability to put an interesting skew on otherwise uninteresting characters, which is the case here. Cranky recollects that Raimi told the press that, unlike his usual work ("big" stories like Darkman and Evil Dead, and a brilliant script for the Coen Brothers' The Hudsucker Proxy), he wanted to work with a simple story that held large psychological implications, which is the case here. Problem is, anyone with an average IQ (and that distinction will become very important in just a second) will figure this sucker out long before the last gunshot echoes across the snow covered Midwestern town in which A Simple Plan is set.

Briefly: Hank (Bill Paxton) and his brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) have plans to visit the family gravesite, but Jacob brings friend Lou (Brent Briscoe) along for the ride. On the way, for entirely logical reasons, the three men have to enter a woods to chase after Mary Beth, Jacob's dog. There they discover a crashed plane, dead pilot, and a bag containing over $4 millions, cash. Do they report the find to the proper authorities or do they take the cash and tell no one. Jacob and Lou are both unemployed (Lou's the town drunk, to boot); Hank and his extremely pregnant wife Sarah (Bridget Fonda) have a daughter due any minute. On the surface, it's a moral dilemna of doing the right thing or being very comfortable for the rest of one's life.

Problem is, Jacob and Lou are absolute morons. Their mental levels approximate the age at which boys learn they can write their name in the snow. Both drink like fishes and have incredibly puerile senses of humor . . .

Don't even think of hitting the e-mail button. Cranky looked up the word, puerile, just to make sure what he was going to write would make sense. . .

Both have guns. While Hank is college educated (and dontcha just know Jacob is jealous about that, too), his decision to go along with the theft is contingent on being in control of the money. Cranky can understand the temptation, but Cranky has also lived in a state where every television station has played "turn it in and get it back in a year if it's unclaimed" public service announcement for at least thirty years. The utter moronics of the Jacob and Lou character are amusing for a while, but once the horror of the story begins to unfold . . . I did mention guns, didn't I? . . all that's left onscreen is Billy Bob Thornton working very hard to get critical notice.

Cranky feels like the city cousin in the country. For a simple plan to work, the acting must be spot on, because the story is transparent and minimal. Fact of the matter is that I like Billy Bob's work, and that I've worked on at least one flick with Mr. Thornton. Cranky just didn't believe the character's moral development, considering the absolute idiocy of his early in the film actions. When you lose interest, or more precisely figure everything out with an hour to go, it's much easier to pierce the veil and see the actor at work. I had no problem with Bill Paxton's Hank, who carries the film as he is intended to, as that character displays more than a glimmer of intelligence.

Cranky is always pleased when a story's creator, in this case novelist Scott B. Smith, continues to work on the adaptation. I also wish that Raimi had applied a bit more of his writing talent to the flick we see on the screen. Either Hank needed more background or Billy Bob needed to be reigned in. Either way, it lies on Raimi's shoulders.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to A Simple Plan, he would have paid...


Intelligent people can make dumb mistakes. That keeps life, and movies, interesting. Dumb people aren't very interesting, and to be interesting, the story must offer more than A Simple Plan does to make the transformation of the character worth watching. If it weren't Oscar wannabe time, A Simple Plan may have gotten another buck. Either way, it's better to wait for tape.

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