Blood Simple

Blood Simple

1984, R, 97 min. Directed by Joel Coen. Starring John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, M. Emmet Walsh, Samm-Art Williams.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Wed., July 12, 2000

Back in the early Eighties when, film-wise at least, Texas was best known for its urban cowboys and best little whorehouses, there came along a movie in early 1985 that not only blew those myths out of the water but also reinvigorated the classic film noir style and lent a credible face to the burgeoning independent film movement. Filmed the year before around Austin and Hutto by the out-of-town, filmmaking brother duo, Joel and Ethan Coen, Blood Simple grabbed the national spotlight with its audacious visual stylings, down-and-dirty story about a marriage gone rotten, and the perception that the film and its makers sprang out of nowhere, fully formed. While that's not quite accurate, it is true that many of the film's first-timers have proven themselves over the years to be maverick talents (Coen brothers: Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, Fargo, and The Big Lebowski; cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld: directed Men in Black and The Addams Family; music coordinator Carter Burwell: Being John Malkovich, among many others). Now comes the director's cut, which is, in the brothers' words, “digitally enhanced and tastefully restored,” with “all the boring parts taken out.” Amazingly, this results in a cut that is shorter than the original release, even though it includes a prologue in which a tongue-in-cheek host tells us, Masterpiece Theatre-style, about the significance of Blood Simple and its restoration. Ultimately, it would require a side-by-side comparison to notice most of the changes. However, certain things never change. Frances McDormand appears radiantly natural and M. Emmet Walsh's sleazy and sweaty private investigator remains the actor's signature role. Blood Simple remains as good as it ever was, and improved slightly by hindsight, experience, and extra cash.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Joel Coen Films
The Tragedy of Macbeth
Joel Coen's stark and silvery take on the Bard's revenger

Josh Kupecki, Dec. 24, 2021

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
The Coen brothers head West, but it's a bumpy ride

Marjorie Baumgarten, Nov. 16, 2018

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Last One Down the Mountain: Belated Thoughts on the Sundance Film Festival
Last One Down the Mountain: Belated Thoughts on the Sundance Film Festival
Even virtually, the 2024 fest felt revitalized

Feb. 21, 2024

Joy Ride
Raunchy road trip goes all the way to China for filthy fun

July 7, 2023


Blood Simple, Joel Coen, John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, M. Emmet Walsh, Samm-Art Williams

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle