Essential cinema. The Coen Brothers usual mix of dark comedy, bloodshed and the macabre reached an early crescendo with this enthralling pleasure. Oscar winning scripting and near perfect casting along with their standard visual mastery have made this a modern classic. McDormand in her Oscar winning turn is magic as is the rest of the cast with their regional characterizations.
"So, that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor in there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money? There's more to life than a little money, you know. Don'tcha know that? And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day. Well. I just don't understand it."
The Coens flirt with not being nihilists. This was made when the brothers were still exacting regionalists and the flat, snow-covered Minnesotan landscapes seem at once to reflect the flattened moral terrain of the films' villains and offer an unblemished canvas upon which sin is marked. 'For a little bit of money' is a reductive view of crime and its causes, but the film makes a good case for pragmatic optimism.
While I do think the film is a success in its observation of a certain violent banality, I also think its legacy is one of the banality of entertainment. To wit, that certain regionalisms be denigrated as barbaric 'decency', that a fairly unphased officer is proffered as one of cinema's finest heroes, and that the above is treated with profundity. My feelings for this film could be deemed 'laughter + guilt'.