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A Simple Plan
Academy Award® Nominee
Captivated by the lure of sudden wealth, the quiet rural lives of two brothers erupt into conflicts of greed, paranoia and distrust when over four million dollars in cash is discovered at the remote...  View more >

Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Bill Paxton, Bridget Fonda

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Please Note: Reader Reviews are submitted by the readers of The BigScreen Cinema Guide and represent their own personal opinions regarding this movie, and do not represent the views of The BigScreen Cinema Guide, or any of its associated entities.

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
"What would you do if you had the chance to walk off with over 4 million dollars?" That's just the question the character's of Sam Raimi's SIMPLE PLAN face in this great movie. The movie places Hank (Paxton), his wife Sarah (Fonda), and Hank's slow-minded brother, Jacob (Thornton), into a winter snowscape filled with suspense. After accidentaly discovering a crashed plane, the brothers and Jacob's friend Lou, decide what to do when Paxton finds a duffel bag filled with over 4 million dollars. What happens hereafter is why you'll have to see this exciting thriller. As the paranoia and suspense grows, you'll be left unblinking as Raimi will captivate you with his first-class suspense thriller. (1-23-99)

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
A superb film! This, unfortunately, may be compared to "Fargo". I say unfortunately because "A Simple Plan" is far superior. The screenplay is a sure Oscar contender, with my vote for Oscar winner. Directing is so intricate it looks simple. In fact, the title says far more about every aspect of the film with more irony than a plain title like that could presume. Billy Bob Thornton, once again, proves he is the consummate actor, drawing the audience in from the moment he makes contact. One particular scene stands out as one of the best acted and best directed I've ever, ever seen. Truly remarkable! Nice performances from a strangely familiar Bill Paxton and a surprisingly un-cosmeticized Bridget Fonda. An excellent plot, superb cast, brilliant script, and pleasantly invisible directing. This is one I'll not forget. As for me, I'm a MAJOR movie buff. I've had some education in film so I know what I speak about. Enjoy this one!

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
This movie is awesome! The plot is terrific The acting is terrific Don't miss it. I just have one question "Did he tell you about the plane?"

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Oh, I just can not get over this movie! It has got to be the best movie of the century!!!

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Billy Bob Thornton does it again! His performance alone is worth the price of admission. The movie shows the effect that sudden wealth has on a group of ordinary people (well, not too ordinary). A Simple Plan has enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat. The bonus is Thornton's performance. He is rapidly becoming the best "character" actor of all time. Don't miss this one!!

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
PROLOGUE: About a month ago, I saw a vile, horrible movie called VERY BAD THINGS (quite possibly the worst movie I've ever seen). I remember leaving the theatre thinking that the only interesting thing about the movie was the idea of ordinary people commiting little crimes, which spawn big problems, which spawn extraordinary crimes by these seeminly normal, boring people. Of course, VERY BAD THINGS' problem was its portrayal of these violent acts as funny. Still, I had to wonder if, done properly, the movie's main idea could create a decent film.

Now I know that film is A SIMPLE PLAN. It really is like an alpha-VERY BAD THINGS, the flip side of the coin in a sense. To me, it was what VERY BAD THINGS should have been. The story follows a simple man, Hank (Bill Paxton), living in a cold, decidedly boring and unglamorous Wisconsin town and trying to support his sweet pregnant wife, Sarah (Bridget Fonda). While out hunting with his pathetic, homely, stupid brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) and his equally unintelligent friend Lou, the trio stumbles upon a crashed airplane with $4 million inside and the pilot dead. After much coaxing by everyone including his wife, Hank decides to keep it. From this moment on, deceit, greed, and paranoia lead these otherwise decent people to behave horribly. The interesting thing is that the more the characters try to cover their tracks and keep the cops from suspecting anything, the deeper in trouble they get.

This movie sports plenty of commendable performances, with special kudos to Billy Bob Thornton (for playing a dumb guy better than anyone since, well, himself in SLING BLADE) and Bridget Fonda for her subtle, evil characterization of what is no doubt a contemporary Lady MacBeth.

Director Sam Raimi deserves most of the credit, though, for showing us that he is capable of so much more than those dreadful EVIL DEAD films. His ability to stir up paranoia and suspense is truly commendable.

RATING B+ (8.5 out of 10)

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Going to see A Simple Plan, I was expecting to see a thinking man's thriller. I was right, but the movie was a lot better and more psychological than I thought it would be. Bill Paxton (Titanic, Mighty Joe Young) and Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade, Armageddon) play two brothers in a small northern town. Paxton is a well-respected man with a pregnant wife and a job. Thornton is mildly retarded, but well liked with no job. The two of them go out with a friend, perfectly played by Brent Briscoe, and discover a personal plane that had crashed in the woods a while ago. They inspect the plane and find a dead pilot and 4.4 million dollars in a gym bag. Thornton and Briscoe want to keep the money, but Paxton wants to give it to the police. Eventually Paxton is convinced to keep the money. They assume it's drug money and decide to hold it for a year and if nothing comes up about the money they'll split it three ways and move out of the city. This is the simple plan the title refers to. But of course to make a good movie you have to have more than that. Paxton's wife, well-played by Bridget Fonda (City Hall, It Could Happen to You), soon finds out and gives him tips on what to do. Soon different things happen that cause characters to make tough decisions. Double-crosses and different foul play erupt as people start to get suspicious. This is definitely a thinking man's thriller, the movie goes at a perfect pace, not throwing in pointless shootouts or chase scenes to take away from the dramatic point. The film finally leads to a haunting climax that I liked a lot. Billy Bob Thornton gives a superior performance as the likable, retarded man. The character is nothing like the other retarded character he played in Sling Blade, which earned him an Oscar nomination, which makes the performance even more remarkable. Bill Paxton is an actor I've never liked. When people ask me who my least favorite actor is his name is usually mentioned alongside Steven Seagal and Billy Zane. But here Paxton surprised me. Up until now I'd never seen him do anything better than his solid performance in Apollo 13. Here Paxton eclipses that with a truly great performance. There was never a second I doubted his character's moves or emotions. This is one of the best performances of the year, I still don't like Paxton, but if he sticks with these kind of performances, he'll become a great actor soon. This film is not a regular thriller, but an intelligent and riveting one. I highly recommend it.

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
A Simple Plan (1998)

'A Simple Plan' contains that wonderful adjective, a modifier that usually is what is says, simple. But words in our language are often charged with connotations that have other plans.

The opening shots establish the protagonist Hank (Bill Paxton) in the small Wisconsin town where he works as a bookkeeper in a grain mill. Hank's wife Sarah (Bridget Fonda), who shelves books in the local library, is pregnant with their first child. Their love seems pure, their lives innocent, until one evening when Hank's brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) visits. Intending to place a poinsettia on their father's grave - cold weather notwithstanding - the brothers drive into the snowy country. With them in the truck is Jacob's drinking buddy Lou (Brent Briscoe) and Jacob's dog. Before long the trio find themselves in the woods, the dog disappeared, tensions heating up between the unemployed ne'er-do-well Lou and the college boy Hank. What puts a stop to the tension is the discovery of a crashed plane; Hank investigates and finds a dead pilot and a large duffel full of money. Will they keep it? Give it back? Are there other choices beside these two?

Thus the scene is set for a modern allegory, perfect chances for greed and betrayal and treachery to take over the plot in the same way they do in Chaucer's 'The Pardoner's Tale.' The fate of the money is almost irrelevant; it's like Hitchcock's macguffin. It's enough to say the story of three honest men who return over four million dollars is not worth watching for two hours.

Much of what makes the film successful is the way in which decisions seem to make themselves. Almost nothing is premeditated, and no matter how much Hank the new father intends to remain harmless, he travels into deeper trouble. Bill Paxton does a solid job transmitting the feelings of a likable average Joe. We admire his humanity as he proves himself a warm husband and caring brother. When his life conflicts with outside forces, though, Hank displays his real character. He's a formidable enemy to Lou; their jealous relationship is one of the main pivots of the story. "Who would you choose, if you had to," Hank questions Jacob, "me or Lou?" It's clear that, when put in tight situations, Hank intends to emerge alive and free, and hopefully wealthy. Key to his performance is the sympathy of the audience, which Paxton is able to engage even after Hank veers into savage behavior.

The best acting in the piece, however, is done by Billy Bob Thornton as big brother Jake. Already the recipient of a Best Supporting Actor Award from the Online Film Critics Society, Thornton is bound to command other nominations and acclaim for this role. If Bill Paxton plays Joe Average, Thornton plays the subtly wise loser, a Mortimer Snerd of a man. Sporting longish hair, bad teeth and duct-taped eyeglasses, Jacob seems a comic character tramping straight into tragedy. And what's nearly ludicrous is that we remain sympathetic to his plight even after he too commits heinous acts. That's the queer magic of the film -- that it serves as a canny study of the innocence and remorse of men after they've forfeited all claims to mercy. In his expressions - the now-trademarked pouchy cheeks and piercing eyes, Thornton is able to transform Jacob into an unlucky Everyman, a big brother who is not quite right but who, at the same time, is wise and protective.

As Lou, Brent Briscoe does a delightful reprise of Rub, the best friend of Donald Sullivan, in 'Nobody's Fool.' Lou is just a bit brighter, but more tragically flawed. Briscoe plays him with a straight-forward presentation, and Lou comes off as a drunken dumba**, another character who rushes into action before he is even able to think. In another supporting role, Bridget Fonda seems under-utilized as Sarah, Hank's wife. Fonda is good with the deadpan seriousness of a woman not quite happy with her life. She often surprises us with her suggestions; we can feel Sarah's presence in Hank's actions even when she is offscreen.

The settings of the film are functional, the wintry scenes beautiful and symbolic. From the forest where the wrecked plane lies, to the middle-class kitchen where an ordinary couple schemes about the unspeakable, the locations in the film do not call undue attention. Likewise, music serves a fairly transparent role, at times sustaining suspense with a score built around stark piano chords.

The final quarter of 'A Simple Plan' does smack of contrivance, but not enough to impede the immensely sad narrative of greed and its reckonings. Director Sam Raimi reins in his film just before it can go over-the-top with violence, though I would not suggest dragging along anyone under 16 to see it.

Jan 25, 2000
What would you do with four million dollars?

That's the question asked at the beginning of A Simple Plan. If ordinary people are given the opportunity to be tempted to keep a large sum of money that they stumbled across, would they do the right thing and turn it in, or would they take advantage of their "luck" and attempt to keep it for themselves?

The first choice would be a very ordinary thing to do. The second choice causes seemingly ordinary people to do extraordinary things as a result of the situation. In A Simple Plan, the latter choice is observed through the best two hours of filmmaking I've seen in quite some time.

Excellent performances by Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, and Bridget Fonda work together with probably the most important character in the film, the bleak, white snow, whose presence permeates the entire film with its sense of isolation and cold.

Bridget Fonda's character, Bill Paxton's sweet, loving wife who works in the library and is expecting their first child, has been compared to the Shakespearean Lady MacBeth, and accurately so. The sweetness and innocence provide adequate cover for the scheming personality just beneath the surface, always orchestrating a plan for her husband's next move.

Bill Paxton delivers a strong performance as the average family guy, who is respected in the community, and perhaps just a little sanctimonious about his own stature in life in comparison to others in town. He's the smart one of two brothers, who got a college degree, and who feels the need to watch after his slower brother, played by Billy Bob Thornton. All this makes his character's actions harder to take, but not harder to believe, as he spins from upstanding citizen to greedy paranoid as a result of the new wealth.

Billy Bob Thornton perhaps turns in the best performance of all of them. I've heard that he's sure to get an Oscar ® nomination for his performance, and he would deserve it. It is through Thornton's Jacob that we see the despair of what money can do to ordinary people; people that he looks up to, and even himself. There is a point in the film when he is sitting in a bar contemplating what has just happened, and you can see exactly what is going through his mind without a word of dialogue or any flashbacks thrown in for visual cues. Director Sam Raimi allows you to watch the emotion in Jacob's face and endure the despair that he is feeling.

Not everyone will like this film. I liken it to Schindler's List, which was another piece of excellent filmmaking, where the reality of it all shocks the viewer into getting involved in the story to a degree that makes this film not one that will be shown casually. The suspense and intrigue of what will happen next and how the characters will react will draw you in and make you part of the experience of what happens when a simple plan is anything but.

Not your average popcorn movie, but rather a great story delivered by impressive performances, stunning visuals, and excellent direction. Highly recommended.

This review is the property of Scott Jentsch, Copyright © 1999. This information cannot be reprinted without the permission of the author.

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
A Simple Plan was a pretty good movie. The actors, especially Billy Bob Thornton were great. I have a problem with the editing. This was the worst peice of film editing I have seen. There were numerous occasions when the microphone floated on screen above the heads of the actors. I can't believe that they didn't catch that!!

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Bill Paxton definitely strikes back in this outstanding film. The basic story line is simple. Three friends find 4.4 million dollars in a crashed plane in a forest. They argue about what to do with it, and finally entrust paxton to guard the money until a decsision can be made. However, along comes a Fake FBI Agent who ends up killing the local sheriff in order to get his money back. Guest starring as Paxton's wife is Bridgete Fonda. My rating for this film, ****/****

Jan 25, 2000
First of all...I hated this film. The only redeemable aspect of this film was that parts were filmed in Wisconsin. If you have ever wanted to see a film where the characters are truly weird, obnoxious, and capable of frustrating the heck out of you...then see this film. I can honestly say, this has got to be one of the most irritating films to ever watch. This is the film industry's revenge movie....they truly created a film to get back at the audience for every mean thing we have ever said about high prices, cold popcorn, watered down soda, and uncomfortable seats. Bottom line...this reminded me of the Republican's Impeachment efforts....it started out all as "a simple plan".

[--- See Now! ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
Overall a very good film, well made and enjoyable.
Its interesting to see how the characters change and their lives spiral out of control when they come upon a lot of money.
Great acting during this movie without exception. All the characters are believable.
The only complaint I have is that it gets a little unrealistic at the end. Ignoring that, its a must see. **** out of *****.

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
A good film. Very Fargo-esqe, but I hope people don't go comparing this film to Fargo. It takes place in the northern midwest of the United States, and has lots of snow in it. Okay, so it's like Fargo in that way. The story doesn't quite work quite as well as Fargo either, but it's not an attempt at copying Fargo. A Simple Plan makes its own mark on the landscape of crime films involving seemingly normal people and that mark is a good one.

As the story goes, three guys find a crashed plane out in the wilderness with a bag of money in it. They decide to hide it and wait to see if anyone comes to claim it when the plane is found. If no one does, they will split the money and go their separate ways. Bill Paxton plays the family man who concocts the plan. Billy Bob Thornton plays his brother, and Bridget Fonda his wife.

Director Sam Raimi (of the Evil Dead series) tones it down a bit for A Simple Plan. The film is deliberately paced and intriguing, and features one particularly outstanding performance. Billy Bob Thornton amazes me with his delicately nuanced performance and chameleon-like acting style. I got the feeling that his character was intended to be a cardboard-cutout dumb guy stock character, but Thornton has managed to instill a sense of sympathy in him. He's a man who's smart enough to know that he's not smart enough to figure things out. Bill Paxton delivers a solid, if unspectacular, performance. He's believeable, but I felt that plenty of other actors could have done what he did.

The film has its faults, however. Some of the plot twists are a little hard to swallow, and I just didn't believe Bridget Fonda's conniving wife character. She flies off the handle so fast that we have no time to build up any interest in her. All in all, though, the story itself provides for a great ride, culminating in an interesting, if unsurprising, finish.

[--- Good ---]by  
Jan 25, 2000
What would you do for $ 4,000,000? ThatÂ’s the plight that Hank (Bill Paxton, in the finest work of his career) faces in this remarkably written and performed Hitchcock-like ("did you see the birds?") gem, which is anything but "simple." Billy Bob Thornton delivers an Oscar-worthy performance (no surprise there) as PaxtonÂ’s dull brother. It doesnÂ’t take long for the viewer to become drawn into the action, complete with psychological manipulations, plot twists, and complications galore. "A Simple Plan" is why I love the movies. HOWEVER: The screenwriter in me wrote my own ending to the film with about a half hour left to go. And I liked my ending better than the one I got. Credit to Sam Raimi (whose Evil Dead and Darkman films I was not fond of) for making me care enough to even do this. Many films these days with 30 minutes left IÂ’ve either fallen asleep, have figured out the ending, or just donÂ’t care. A Simple Plan? Let the debate begin. YouÂ’re Hank. What would you do?

10-point scale rating: 8

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