It's hard for me not to think of a Coen Brothers' film as anything other than a comedy, but this first film of theirs must have struck theatregoers as something else, most likely a twisted little tale of infidelity and murder. We get glimmers of what we've seen later on from the Coens, but this is, altogether, quite a different movie.
Right out of the gate, we have imaginative use of light, and some interesting framing. Even better is the use of space between dialog and actions for defining the individual moments of the film, all guided by excellent acting all the way around. For a first film, these guys really lucked out on casting with Dan Hedaya and M. Emmett Walsh, along with Frances McDormand's first film appearance. The plot is a twisty accidental journey which would stand up to a lot more scrutiny than most others in this genre.
In the end, the film has to stand on its own, despite anybody's interest in the subsequent careers of the particulars. And in fact it does, though with the ever increasing trend toward the hip, self-aware crime film in recent years, it's harder to differentiate this one from more recent fare such as the dreadful Love and a .45.
I still think this is a comedy, if a fairly bleak one, but so is Fargo which feels just about as bleak, but with the intensity turned up a notch or two. You may not laugh out loud, but there's some great wry insights on the human condition that will have your brain silently twitching in glee.
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Offsite info: Internet Movie Database
Review: Gritty and Great 8/10 mastadonfarm
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