Fargo - * * * 1/2*

Fargo is the latest film from Joel and Ethan Coen, and their most realistic, if not quite their best. William H. Macy is a used car salesman in Minneapolis. When he is overwhelmed by debt, he hatches a scheme to kidnap his wife and get her rich father to pay $1 million in ransom. Unfortunately, he hires two bumbling crooks (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to carry out the deed, a misjudgment which eventually leads to several murders in remote Brainerd, Minnesota. Frances McDormand plays the pregnant chief of police in Brainerd, who, with great patience and unwavering perseverance, tracks down the tangled web of crime. The Coen brothers have yet again deftly walked the line between comedy and drama. In Fargo, the pair contrast the graphic brutality of the crimes and misdeeds with the folksy down-hominess of the northern midwesterners. The violence is graphic and bloody, and not for the squeamish. But, oh geez, the good guys seem so gosh-darn super. The characters, especially McDormand’s and Macy’s, seem vivid and well fleshed out. Fargo only stumbles once, when it pursues a dead-end subplot involving McDormand’s reunion with an old classmate. When it concentrates on the plot at hand, it is humorous and unique. The Coen’s previous films have had a reputation for their surreal elements and daring cinematography. Both are much more subdued in Fargo, harkening back to their Blood Simple days, but the Coen’s sense of irony and subtle humor are still present. Fargo is a quirky violent comedy that’s worth watching.

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