Because Brainerd Just Doesn’t Have the Same Ring to It – Fargo (1996)

The exact reason why you should leave crime to the criminals.  So this is about a desperate man by the name of Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy).  He needs money quickly so he can close on a deal for some land, so he sets in motion a plan to have his wife kidnapped and extort the ransom from his father-in-law.  It becomes very apparent very quickly how fast a plan can go south, especially when it wasn’t terribly well thought out in the first place.  This is the Coen brothers at the absolute top of their game.  They’ve made my favorite comedy of all time in The Big Lebowksi, and Fargo is one of my favorite crime thrillers of all time.  There are plenty of imitators out there, but there is nothing else out there that executes quite as brilliantly as Fargo does.

1And even though it’s a thriller, there are still a lot of laughs to be had if you like quirky characters.

Now I have seen this movie no less than a dozen times, and the whole reason I gave it another spin was because of the new season of the television series.  I know it’s the new trend of taking movies from years back and giving them an entire television series, but Fargo is better than all of them I’ve seen so far (I liked the first season, but the second and third have been home runs).  This movie is positively a must see for anybody that fancies themselves to be a film critic, or even just people who like film in general.  Even from the opening, it sets the scene perfectly, telling you that this is a true story, and at out of respect of the survivors, the names have been changed, and out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly how it occurred.  If you stick around until the final end credits, you will see that this is not actually true, but it changes the tone of the film drastically, making you take these people with heavy Minnesota accents seriously instead of just brushing them off as Hollywood movie characters.

2You’re darn tootin’!

This is one of the best stories out there of crime that goes wrong.  It is such an escalating snowball effect that Jerry gets himself into, and you can tell very early on that he is simply oblivious to how far his head is underwater.  On top of that, you have a very strong female protagonist in Marge the police officer (Frances McDormand).  She knocks it out of the park, and she’s got depth, which is more than you typically get for female character in stories in general.  She is also in a loving relationship right in the middle of all the crime and chaos in this small northern town, which is a very nice touch.  As per usual with the Coen brothers, the script is brilliant.  I love the way that they write dialogue, and just the cadence in their speech patterns is pleasing to the ear; I could have this on in the background just listening to it, and still get value of it.  It’s hilariously dark, and it is impossible to do better than this film in the areas it excels at.

Fargo (1996) *****

– Critic for Hire


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