Oooohh this is a good movie. Billy Bob Thornton emerged in 1996 as a refreshing new presence in Hollywood with the terrific Sling Blade, and went on to do more great things, the best of which was A Simple Plan (1998). It’s about a group of men who decide to gamble with their lives. Roger Ebert gave it his highest rating:
“You work for the American Dream–you don’t steal it.” So says a Minnesota family man early in “A Simple Plan,” but he is only repeating an untested theory. Confronted with the actual presence of $4 million in cash, he finds his values bending, and eventually he’s trapped in a horror story of greed, guilt and murder.
In-depth analysis by scholar Jane Hill shows how this movie may be thrown aloft and into the context of classic literature (from Wikipedia/iBooks):
Although Richard Schickel links the film to Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and a number of reviewers make note of its similarities to the Coen brothers’ Fargo, as well as to such classic films as John Huston’s Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing, it is through even deeper intertextual roots that Smith and Raimi reveal their complicated ideological statement regarding the state of the American dream at the end of the twentieth century… Smith and Raimi transpose three specific sign systems, or texts, central to the western canon: Shakespeare’s Macbeth, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Through their complicated interweaving of these language “systems,” the filmmakers achieve a new articulation of the relationship between the American dream and ambition, between Christian morality and capitalistic expectations.
This is a truly outstanding drama and highly recommended. Ebert again:
“A Simple Plan” is one of the year’s best films for a lot of reasons, including its ability to involve the audience almost breathlessly in a story of mounting tragedy.