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A Simple Plan
Directed by Sam Raimi
Produced by James Jacks
Adam Schroeder
Mark Gordon
Gary Levinsohn
Written by Novel & screenplay:
Scott Smith
Starring Bill Paxton
Billy Bob Thornton
Brent Briscoe
Bridget Fonda
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography Alar Kivilo
Editing by Arthur Coburn
Distributed by Paramount
Release date(s) December 11, 1998
Running time 121 min.
Country  United States
Language English
Budget $17,000,000 (estimated)[1]
Gross revenue $16,311,763 (USA)

A Simple Plan is a 1998 drama film directed by Sam Raimi, based on the novel of the same name by Scott Smith, who also wrote the screenplay of the movie. It was shot in Delano, Minnesota; Ashland, Wisconsin; and Saxon, Wisconsin. Billy Bob Thornton was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Scott B. Smith was nominated for the Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay.

Several prominent critics praised the film for its complexity and taut suspense (four stars from Roger Ebert and Critic's Choice from The New York Times).

Contents

Plot

Hank Mitchell (Bill Paxton) and his pregnant wife, Sarah (Bridget Fonda), live a quiet but happy life in rural Minnesota. Hank, one of the town's few residents to graduate college, works in a feed mill, while his wife is a librarian. Hank's brother, Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton), is a dim-witted but good-hearted fellow. The story begins with Hank, Jacob, and a Jacob's friend, Lou, chasing a fox into the woods. They lose the fox, but find a downed airplane that appeared to have crashed in the area some time previoulsy. After some investigation, they see the pilot is long dead, and the only cargo is a bag full of unmarked bills totaling $4.4 million.

Hank suggests turning the money in, but is persuaded not to by Jacob and Lou. Hank's condition is that he keep the money safe at his house and no one spends anything until winter ends and everyone moves away when they divvy up the cash. All agree to keep the discovery a secret. When they return to their vehicle, Carl, the sheriff, appears and Hank nervously talks to him while Jacob unwisely mentions hearing a plane in the area. Hank reveals the discovery to his wife, who is overjoyed at the news.

Things start to unravel quickly. When Hank and Jacob return to the plane to put some of the money back as part of a larger plan to avoid suspicion, they come across an old man on a snowmobile. Jacob, thinking their cover is blown, bludgeons the man. When the man regains consciousness and asks for the police, Hank suffocates him and makes it look like an accidental death. Jacob reneges on his promise to move away during the summer, and tells of his intention to buy his father's farm with his share of the money. Lou drunkenly demands some of the money from Hank, saying that he has spent recklessly since the discovery and needs cash fast. Hank refuses, and Lou threatens to tell the authorities about the old man's death. Hank and Jacob team up against Lou to make sure he will not reveal the old man's murder. Lou, drunk and enraged that the two conspired against him, pulls a gun. Jacob kills Lou to save his brother, and then Hank kills Lou's wife when she appears firing another gun. Hank concocts a plan as to what to tell the cops to avoid arrest. The plan works, thanks to Hank's solid reputation in the community and Jacob's rehearsed speech to the police. Jacob tells Hank that this whole turn of events is wearing on him and that he "feels evil".

Later, the sheriff calls Hank and tells him that the FBI has arrived, looking for a downed plane that may have crashed in the area. Because Jacob mentioned a plane earlier, the sheriff asks the brothers to assist in the search through the woods. Sarah is immediately skeptical and discovers that the FBI man is actually involved with the money and is looking for his lost cash. Hank still goes with him in order to protect Carl, he brings a gun with him just in case. Then the sheriff, the FBI man, Hank and Jacob head into the woods. They find the plane, and Hank's worst fears are confirmed when the FBI man pulls a gun and kills the sheriff, revealing that he is looking for the lost money, and not with the FBI. Jacob and Hank manage to get the drop on the man, and Hank kills him. Hank starts to concoct another story to tell the authorities, but Jacob announces he doesn't want to live with these bad memories, and will shoot himself to end it. He encourages Hank to kill him instead and frame the FBI man, so that Hank can still tell any story he wants. After grappling with the decision, Hank kills Jacob, and starts sobbing.

At the police station, Hank tells his story to real FBI agents. As Sarah had predicted, no one would believe that this upstanding member of the community could be capable of such wrongdoing, and he is cleared of any crime. But he gets some unexpected bad news. The money in the plane is actually ransom money paid to kidnappers, and before it was delivered, many of the bills' serial numbers were written down to track the cash and find whoever was using it. Hank realizes everything was for nothing, as he cannot use even one hundred dollar bill without fear of being caught. He goes home and burns all the money, with his wife struggling to stop him. Later, we see Hank and Sarah living the same lives they started with, but with Hank reflecting on their profound losses.

Differences between the film and the novel

The screenplay made numerous changes to the plot, particularly to events in the second half of the novel. In the movie, after Lou and Nancy are killed, Hank does not kill Sonny or shoot Jacob; rather, he constructs a domestic dispute situation involving just Nancy and Lou, with him and Jacob walking in after Lou had killed Nancy.

Hank and Jacob's relationship is somewhat different. Though still not close, they have more affection for one another in the film than in the novel. Though in both the novel and the film, Jacob is a pathetic loser, in the film he is much kinder and considerate, while in the novel he is much more selfish and even scheming.

Lou in the film is married, while in the novel he lives with his girlfriend. Though spiteful and antagonistic towards Hank in both the novel and the film, in the novel Lou is notably more malicious, taking joy in ridiculing and bullying Hank.

While in the film Sarah still encourages several devious plans, in the novel she suggests that Hank murder Lou's neighbor, making her appear much more ruthless.

The film also changes Hank's reaction to finding out Baxter isn't an FBI agent. Rather than bolting, as he does in the novel, Hank stays with the plan realizing that if he leaves Baxter will kill Carl. Jacob also accompanies the crew. The result is a bloodbath, with only Hank surviving. Jacob is killed by Hank after Jacob threatens to commit suicide because he feels he can no longer live with what he's seen; Hank didn't want him to kill himself because which guns shot whom needed to align for his alibi. Hank's killing spree at the convenience store is also excluded from the film.

Overall, the changes make the finished story less violent and Hank's character more compassionate. Hank in the film is far less murderous and even more remorseful for what he does than the Hank of the novel, who willingly executes innocent bystanders without hesitation. Hank is also depicted protecting Carl in the film, whereas in the novel he leaves Carl for dead. Much of the dialog and themes, however, are carefully maintained in both media.

Cast

References

External links

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