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A review of A Simple Plan
by Joel Mack

"Sometimes good people do evil things."

Director: Sam Raimi

Stars: Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, Bridget Fonda

Rating: R

Release: 12-11-1998

Time: 121 minutes

Buy Movie at Such is the premise of "A Simple Plan". What would you do if you found a bag containing 4 million dollars in the middle of nowhere? Hank Mitchell (Bill Paxton), is an ordinary guy with a good but boring job, a wife and a baby on way, his older brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton), a slow-witted, unemployed loser, and Jacob's best friend Lou (Brent Briscoe), is also unemployed, in debt, and stuck with a domineering wife. The three men, while on an impromptu fox hunt, stumble upon the wreckage of a small plane, a dead pilot, and the aforementioned bag o' cash. Hank immediately wants to turn it over to the police, but Jacob and Lou think it's drug money and think no one will even come looking for it. After some cajoling, Hank reluctantly agrees, and devises a simple plan: He will hold on to the money until after the plane is found by officials, and if the money isn't mentioned, the three will take their shares and leave town. At home, Hank's wife (Bridget Fonda) initially agrees that keeping the money would be wrong, but quickly changes her mind at the sight of stacks of cash, and begins scheming to help make the plan work. She suggests they return some of the money to the plane, "to make it look like no one has been there". While Hank and Jacob are doing that, Jacob disastrously overreacts to surprise appearance of a neighbor, setting in motion series of events that threaten ruin everything.

Director Sam Raimi ("The Evil Dead", "Darkman") and Scott B. Smith, who wrote the screenplay from his own novel, weave an intricate tale of greed, deception, and murder. We watch helplessly along with Hank as others make blunder after blunder, leaving him to clean up the ever-growing mess. The film examines with frightening clarity how perfectly good, upstanding people can be corrupted at the thought of instant wealth. Bridget Fonda's character is chilling as she almost instantly transforms from an honest mother-to-be content with her life, to a scheming, desperate woman determined to get away from what she now considers a mundane existence. Billy Bob Thornton is mesmerizing as Jacob, who is far more observant and aware than people give him credit for, and Bill Paxton gives the standout performance of his career as the everyman pushed to the brink by circumstances spinning wildly out of control. Easily one of the best films of 1998.