A Simple Plan has been heavily promoted as director Sam Raimi’s graduation from the B-movie ranks. He demonstrates here a high degree of technical skill, accomplishing some handsome mood building with snow scenes, hovering crows, a fox in the hen house. But, despite a promising beginning, A Simple Plan unravels sadly in its second half, most of what transpires being utterly predictable, and what is not predictable, simply unbelievable.
The premise is an old one: three essentially law abiding men find a downed airplane, the frozen corpse of the pilot, and four million dollars or so in $100 bills. The expected discussion of "call the police" or "take the money and run" ensues. Of course, if they called the police, there wouldn’t be a movie, though maybe that would be an interesting premise for a more imaginative screenwriter. Greed is the motivator; human foolishness and the insecurities of moral people doing immoral things provide the turns in the plot which grows less plausible and more violent as it weaves its weary way to its unsurprising conclusion. CV will not provide further details of the plotting for fear of spoiling the viewing for those who choose to see the film despite what they read here.
The performances are solid. Billy Bob Thornton turns out still another impaired country boy role. He makes the character reasonably credible within the constraints of the flawed script and it is really the only character in the roster of more than passing interest. Bill Paxton and Bridget Fonda acquit themselves competently, but, as with the overall film, are weighted with the humorlessness and the lack of anything but the most obvious motivations. This is a thriller without thrills, a morality tale without subtlety or noticeable irony.