In the first Coen Brothers film, the owner of a seedy small-town Texas bar discovers that one of his employees is having an affair with his wife. A chaotic chain of misunderstandings, lies and mischief ensues after he devises a plot to have them murdered.
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The Coen brothers debut feature only seems to get better with age. It's pulpy premise and near film-noir pretensions work in its favour keeping the viewer enthralled and in suspense. Performances from the four leads are dynamite especially McDormand and Walsh. Great cinematography by Sonnenfeld and the first film score by Burwell is very memorable as well.
The opening monologue alludes to all of the themes you'll encounter throughout the film..."Something can always go wrong," and, in Texas, "You're on your own." I wish Frances McDormand was in every movie. This new 4k restoration is magnetic.
Very clever constructed, with some rather unexpected twists. The motion of the camera and the movements of the actors are carefully choreographed, the work with colours, light, shadows ans sound is amazing.
How to shoot a Film Noir in 1984 ? Ask the Coen brothers, they dit it. With class. They just added to the classic recipe an ounce of black humor, two drops of unrealism, a pinch of brogue and some variations about the word "Blood" which is not as simple as one could imagine. Shake a little, allow to simmer gently during 94 minutes and you'll get the near perfect spaghetti Film Noir. Highly recommended.
You can definitely see how this film paved the way for the Coen's charismatic body of work. It's an enjoyable thriller, not particularly groundbreaking in any way, but an assertive tale of betrayal, deceiving and violence. Some parts were not so easy no grasp in order to fully understand what was going on.
An assured but spotty debut. It's dutifully Hitchcockian in its blocking and execution, which leads to two pretty great suspense setpieces. It lays the foundations for many of the themes and ideas the Coens will explore (more deeply) in other subsequent works. But it also still feels underdeveloped visually, embracing a more cartoonish aesthetic (perhaps from their kinship with Sam Raimi) than suits the material.