Blood's not so simple when you're trying to clean a floor drenched with it, but that's all part of the fun in the Coen Brothers's auspicious debut. Directed by Joel, produced by Ethan, and written by both of them (their standard operating procedure), Blood Simple tells the story of a bar owner (Dan Hedaya) who hires a private detective (M. Emmet Walsh) to kill his unfaithful wife (Frances McDormand) and her lover (John Getz). Not much goes according to anyone's plan here, however, and Blood Simple delights with clever plot twists and turns, which are conveyed through audacious camera moves and richly expressive black-and-white photography. There's solid acting all around, but it is Walsh who steals this show in perhaps the best role of his career: He's perfect as a slouching, overweight archetype of snide cynicism. Performances aside, the film is a celebration of style and irony and a showcase for director Joel's visual inventiveness. A seminal film in the American independent movement as well as a cult classic, Blood Simple succeeds brilliantly as film noir even as its tongue alternates from cheek-to-cheek.
A tribute to American film noir, Blood Simple was the Coen Brothers' remarkably confident film debut. It introduced the world to the brothers' dark and enjoyably warped vision, setting the tone for their later and increasingly famous works. Blood Simple also established the Coens as some of the most innovative filmmakers of their generation, featuring acrobatic camera manipulation and stunningly effective point-of-view shots, the most memorable of which is M. Emmet Walsh's view of a dripping sink. For his part, Walsh gave one of the best performances of his career, a savory blend of amoral sleaze and mean-eyed greed. His performance is the black heart and soul of Blood Simple, a film that churns with sadistic good humor as it delivers a brutal yet beautifully executed shot to the head.