A Simple Plan

Sam Raimi’s provocative, in some ways rewarding, but ultimately disappointing attempt to make a mainstream art film (1998) harks back to Erich von Stroheim’s Greed in terms of story material. The characters of Scott B. Smith’s novel, which he’s adapted for the screen, receive an unexpected windfall and their lives are destroyed by it. It’s a suggestive premise, but Raimi and Smith lack the focus of a Stroheim or a Frank Norris (Stroheim’s source for Greed) to work out precisely what’s being suggested. The script dawdles, and in spite of a good castBill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton (who’s especially resourceful), Bridget Fonda, and Brent Briscoethe movie tends to amble around its points rather than drive straight toward the heart of the matter. It’s still a better-than-average melodrama with thriller elements, and it uses its remote midwestern setting almost as well as its actors, but don’t expect a fully achieved work. R, 121 min. (JR)

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