Created by Ethan Coen
Nope, Blood Simple is not a private eye movie, per se. But it does feature a private eye as one of its four main characters, and that performance is one of the most memorable of the 1980's. And the film itself, the Coen Brothers film debut, is a true triumph of independent film-making.
The private eye is LOREN VISSER, and he's one slimy sumbitch, an amoral bottom-feeder who's hired by a Texas roadhouse owner Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya) to follow his wife, Abby (Frances McDormand in her first film appearance), who he suspects of cheating on him. It turns out Marty's suspicions are well-founded, so he then decides to hire Visser to kill the two lovers. But Visser has a few tricks up his own sleeve, and so is set in play a twisting, turning tale full of deceit and betrayal, as people not too smart to begin with find new depths of stupidity to sink to, even as the body count grows (the "blood simple" of the title, taken from a quote by Raymond Chandler) .
Not that Visser is some criminal mastermind or anything, but in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. And Visser wears the crown here, for sure. After all, Visser doesn't have to be all that sharp to be the sharpest knife in the drawer -- just sharper than everyone else. He may be pure scum, but damn -- he's fun to watch. And there's plenty of nasty black humour to keep things moving. It's James M. Cain taken to Jim Thompson extremes, a "grisly comic noir that marries the feverish toughness of pulp thrillers with the ghoulishness of even pulpier horror."
The cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld (before he became a big shot Hollywood director himself) is amazing, the performances tight and right, and the wit and verve of the script by Ethan Coen are all brought home, under Joel Coen's sure-handed direction.
No stranger to crime fiction or film sub-genres, the brothers went on to write/direct and produce such films as Miller's Crossing, Raising Arizona, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, The Man Who Wasn't There, Hail, Caesar!, True Grit and No Country for Old Men, all the while busily looting and pillaging, mixing and matching genres. And in 1998, Ethan Coen treated us to Gates of Eden, a collection of short stories, some of which feature his own peculiar takes on private eyes and other denizens of the pulps.
Memorable Eyes in Non-P.I. Flicks
The Thrilling Detective review by Christopher Friesen.
Short profiles of private eyes featured in Coen's Gates of Eden.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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