Posted in: Disc Reviews by William O'Donnell on December 9th, 2011
A bar owner hires a hitman to assassinate his wife and her lover upon discovering their affair. What proceeds is a neo-noir packed with ample murder, betrayal and suspicions throughout.
This film is the directorial debut of Joel Cohen, thus making it the first in the line of “Coen Bros.” productions (Joel’s brother Ethan naturally contributing as co-writer and co-editor). As well, Barry Sonnenfield is the Director of Photography, which helps to explain the outstanding visual composition of this film. With the combined efforts of the Coens and Sonnenfield, Blood Simple takes a modern, Southern US setting (in full colour I should note) and turns the mise-en-scene into something unmistakably of the noir genre. There are a few more hand held jostling than one would be acclimatized to in Coen Brothers films, which sometimes take away from the strictly “noir” style of framing shots, but do keep it from feeling too stifling or striated.
The film starts off somewhat dull but eventually gets a head of steam going and starts to become rather tense and intriguing. Each character’s best-laid-plans start to go foul. Bullets start flying, all for want of a lost lighter. There are no major personal secrets to be dug up in order to maintain audience interest in the plot, or other tacky twists like that. This film’s success comes from simply having the characters act as they would in a situation they are not fully prepared to deal with. To put it one way: the game doesn’t change once the rules are laid out, but the players may not be prepared.
The dialogue becomes secondary as volumes are expressed through the varying glares made by each character; as well as through the speeds by which they act and/or react. M. Emmet Walsh shows great range as he gets introduced to us as a sweaty, ever-chuckling private detective, and transforms into a would-be assassin.
Widesceen 1.85:1. This was a very disappointing transfer to Blu Ray. The sort of transfer that makes one think that they might as well stick with DVD. The picture has a fuzziness throughout. Being a modern take on the “noir” genre, there are obviously going to be a great number of dimly lit scenes. The blacks in this film are never solid, always showing off that aforementioned fuzziness.
English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. While I wasn’t as let down by the soundtrack as I was the Video quality, I still feel more efforts could have been made to create a surround sound experience. The stereo sounds decent, save for some notable aging on the dialogue at points, but Carter Burwell created such a nice score that I wish I could hear it all around me during contemplative tracking shots where no actors are speaking.
Subtitles in English and Spanish.
Audio Commentary with Kenneth Loring of Forever Young Films: Loring is a fictional chracters from a fictional film restoration company, telling fictional “facts” about the technical side of this film. Entirely scripted by the Coen Brothers, it wouldn’t be hard to tell that this is fabricated, even if you were not in on the joke to begin with (there are no hints on the packaging or inside this release). When Loring speaks about animatronic dogs, or goes on a rant about arguments he’s personally had in the past for about a quarter of his time, you should be wise to what’s really going on.
As I hinted at earlier in my review, this version of Blood Simple is not much better than the DVD release. It is not a low-grade Blu Ray by any means, but is hardly a step up from anything that has come before it in more recent years. Still, the film itself is great for cinephiles, but newly blossoming or well seasoned.