This marked not only the directorial debut of brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, but was written, edited and produced by them, as well. In point of fact, this would qualify the film as one of the most polished and successful neo-noir thrillers created as an indie film. Certainly, a feat for its time.
The plot revolves around the affair between Abby (Frances McDormand, great actor and actual wife of Joel) and Ray (John Getz), which has not gone unnoticed by Abby’s spouse, Marty (played by the eerily Richard Nixon-like Dan Hedaya). So Marty hires a private eye, who naturally is as shady as they come.
What transpires is an escalating series of dirty deeds and double crosses. To say much more would spoil the movie, but I will say this: Marty may be one of the toughest men to kill in movie history. And, if two people want to have a happy relationship, it helps to trust one another.
The film is remarkable for having established the highly unorthodox Coen Brothers approach to the crime thriller genre. It fully established their proclivity toward mixing brutal violence with comedy. As an indie film, it was both a polished product and a huge success – the movie grossed double its $1.5 million in production costs.
As indie filmmakers, the Coens employed the unusual device of creating a fake trailer for the movie, in order to raise money. One could look at it as an early use of the moving image to fund a film, pre-dating the crowdfunding approach by nearly two decades.
The Coens have gone on to produce a string of films that reflect their somewhat twisted outlook. They also tend to pay homage to genre flicks — this one obviously meant to honor the film noir tradition. Between their genre sendups, surreal stories, and their dour existentialism, the Coens are truly American film auteurs.
Their first major foray into moviemaking earns the pair two thumbs up! 🙂
PS: Here’s an interesting fake trailer for the movie that someone put together as a class project! 🙂