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Featured Blu-ray review: Blood Simple

August 29th, 2011

Blood Simple - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Blood Simple was the Coen Brothers first film. It did well in limited release, considering its theater count never expanded beyond several dozen, and showed the Coens were filmmakers worth paying attention to. It's been more than 25 years since the film was released in theaters. Has it aged well? And is the Blu-ray worth picking up?

The Movie

Oh boy. As long time readers know, I usually start these reviews with a plot synopsis that continues for as long as possible without getting into too many spoilers. However, in this case, that's damn near impossible. You can't get five minutes into the movie without running into a major spoiler, and that's part of the reason it's such an amazing movie.

There are four main characters in the movie: Julian Marty, the owner of a bar in Texas; Abby, his wife; Ray, one of Julian's bartenders; and Loren Visser, a private eye. The film starts with Abby and Ray initiating an affair. But, unfortunately for them, Julian is a suspicious type and had already hired Loren to spy on them. Julian is also a jealous and violent type. It isn't long before Julian hires Loren again, this time he wants him to kill Ray and Abby, while Julian is off fishing for an alibi. That's where the "Blood" part comes from, but nothing in this movie is simple. It's one double-cross / surprise twist after another in a neo-noir setting.

Just about every aspect of this movie is near perfect. The plot is overly complex, but in all the right ways. The dialogue has a sense of style that has since become a trademark of the Coen Brothers and gives the film a truly dark sense of humor. All four actors are at the top of their game. I was also impressed at just how skillful the two filmmakers were at directing and editing the movie. (Speaking of editing, this is the Director's Cut of the film, which is three-minutes shorter than the original cut. It's mostly just tighter editing without much in the way of dramatic changes.)

I really can't think of anything about the movie that doesn't work. It is that amazing.

The Extras

The film starts with an introduction by faux-film historian Mortimer Young. It's only 95 seconds long, so it doesn't outlast the joke. There's also an audio commentary by Kenneth Loring, a fake film historian from the equally fake Forever Young Films. It has the same tone has the intro and it is worth listening too, but don't expect to get a lot of technical information out of it.

The technical presentation is about as good as one can expect from a film that was made for less than $2 million nearly 30 years ago. The level of detail is good, but not great, especially in the darker scenes. And there are a lot of darker scenes. In fact, the issues with shadows swallowing up details is the worst problem with the transfer. Colors, details in brighter lit scenes, etc. are all strong, while I didn't notice any compression artifacts or DNR, etc. The audio is... well, the audio track is 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. It's a loseless audio track with excellent clarity, but the 2.0 part means one should not expect anything showy.

The Verdict

The verdict for Blood Simple is simple: Skip it. The movie is excellent and worth owning on Blu-ray, but the Coen Brothers Collection is the better deal and is a contender for Pick of the Week. That box set has four films for the price of three, and all four are worth owning. Plus, since three of the films are making their Blu-ray debut, even if you already own Fargo, the box set is the better deal, albeit by just $2 going by prices.

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Filed under: Video Review, Blood Simple