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Blood Simple (1984)

When Texan bar-owner Hedaya discovers that his wife (McDormand) is messing round with one of the hired hands, he doesn't call a divorce lawyer. Instead, he buys the services of the incredibly disgusting M. Emmet Walsh, a private eye with a profitable sideline in murder and double-crossing. However, rather than dispose of the adulterers, the assassin chooses what seems like a simpler way to collect his fee, and the story escalates into an insanely complicated series of ironies and misunderstandings. Unusually for the murder / mystery / suspense genre, the effect of Blood Simple depends on letting the audience in on the truth that is concealed from the characters, so that we are allowed to figure out precisely where they have gone wrong. The result is an exceptionally satisfying thriller, fiendishly directed by first-timer Joel Coen with a strong sense of the seedy Texan locale, and a clutch of brilliant, sweaty performances. Few screen villains have been as completely repulsive as the sleazeball Walsh plays here, and the final confrontation is as gruesome as anything in the recent horror cinema. Blood Simple is liable to be the cult film of the year, so go and see it before someone tells you too much about the plot.
KIM NEWMAN

First Published In: City Limits no.174 (1 -7 February 1985) p.23


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