Sam Raimi has had a long career of directing geek type films, from the Evil Dead franchise to the first Spider-Man series. He is currently helming the director’s chair of Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. He has several Raimi-isms that appear in many of his films that would tell you that this was a Sam Raimi project. However, the 1998 neo-noir thriller A Simple Plan was directed by Sam Raimi and avoided many, if not most, of the traits of the director and has to be considered one of his best films ever.
Three men, Hank (Bill Paxton), his brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jacob’s friend Lou (Brent Briscoe), went chasing after a fox that had caused them to slide their truck off the snow cover road and into a tree. However, the revenge mission was stalled when they discovered a snow-covered small plane crashed in the woods. Even more, inside the small plane was a satchel with $4 million dollars of cash. The pilot was dead and the three of them tried to decide what they were going to do with the money. Hank’s first impression was to turn it into the cops, but Lou wanted to keep it for themselves. The convinced themselves that the money was from a drug dealer and that there would be no victims from them keeping the money. The money would change their lives forever.
The only way Hank agreed to the plan was if he would hold on to the money. Then once some time passed, they would divvy up the cash and all leave town.
A simple plan? Yes, but it is not too soon after this that complications begin to be tossed in the works, and it becomes anything but simple.
Raimi’s film dramatically investigates the theme of what greed or the power of money can do to good people. Hank is a friendly, run-of-the-mill type person who everybody likes, but you can see how he does increasingly, one might say, evil things in the name of the money. The promise of how this money would give these men something their loves were missing affected each of them in distinct manners. Lou became more desperate as the time went on, unable to balance the hope for the future against the pressing needs of the present. Jacob, already a little slow mentally, can be seen having his conscience weighing him down with each of the terrible events.
Billy Bob Thornton is tremendous here as Jacob. You can see the struggle inside his head after each moment in the film. You are never quite sure what he is going to do next. The late Bill Paxton is also great here as the guilt of his actions are pulling at his insides, but his guilt is fighting against the cumulative effects of his unavoidable actions. A Simple Plan is an excellent psychological thriller that you may not expect.
There is also a scary performance from Bridget Fonda, who plays Hank’s wife Sarah. She shows a manipulative side that comes out viciously when she hears about the amount of money. Many of the worst things that happen in the movie come directly from the machinations of Sarah, which plays in direct opposition to the type of character this normally would be.
The film has several twists and turns that help keep that pressure on out characters and allow the audience a chance to continue to be uncertain about where the eventual destiny will take these characters.
A Simple Plan is thrilling and disturbing all at the same time. You find yourselves rooting for Hank even after he had done some evil things because everyone can be questioning themselves about exactly what they would have done if they had been placed in the same situation.
What would you do?