A Simple Plan

Stars:  Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, Bridget Fonda

How do you turn three halfway normal guys and one woman into thieves, liars and murderers? Drop four million dollars into their laps one day it’s the end of civilization as they know it.

After the men (Hank, Jacob and Lou) come across a downed plane in the woods one winter and discover the loot, they hatch a “simple plan” to hold on to money until Spring and if no one comes looking, they’ll divide it up and part ways by leaving town. Tell no one, not even the wives.

Greed and stupidity set in and not one of them can keep his mouth shut. This is the proverbial ‘comedy of errors’ where if it can go wrong, it does, and pretty soon Sara (Bridget Fonda), Hank’s wife, seems to be running the show. Things don’t get any better and they all sink deeper and deeper into deceit and worse, they become murderers or accomplices. Not what they set out to do when the money first made its appearance. The guys seem to be morons with a capital “M” and if there’s any motto to this tale, it’s that “honesty is the best policy”. It would have saved them all a whole lot of trouble.

Hank, played by Bill Paxton, is the most intelligent of the group and the one for whom we have the most sympathy. He wanted to turn in the money but was talked out of it by Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jacob’s drunkard-idiot friend Lou. Well you figure from the start that Lou is going to be the downfall of all of them and that’s pretty much true, except they all falter to such a high degree that you want to shut your eyes at times at their gross stupidity and poor judgment. Paxton and Thornton are excellent as they face one moral dilemma after another. You can feel the noose tightening around their necks as they struggle frantically to make things right. It’s a disaster. Sara, motivated by sudden greed, helps lead the way by egging on Hank to take actions that he might normally not have thought of.

Billy Bob Thornton is a wonderful chameleon of an actor. You can hardly recognize him here and he moves from different aspects of a loser personality: sensitive one minute, a frightened killer the next. He works very well with Paxton and their relationship as brothers from different sides of the tracks is quite believable.

I enjoyed the movie, but it is extremely painful to watch these people self-destruct right before your eyes.

Lotta says: an interesting tale with remarkably clearly drawn characters. Thornton should have gotten the Academy Award for best supporting – not Coburn.