Film Review – FARGO (1996)

FARGO (1996, USA/UK, 98m, 18) *****
Crime, Drama
dist. Gramercy Pictures (USA), PolyGram Filmed Entertainment (UK); pr co. PolyGram Filmed Entertainment / Working Title Films; d. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen; w. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen; pr. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen; ph. Roger Deakins (DuArt | 1.85:1); m. Carter Burwell; ed. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (both as Roderick Jaynes); pd. Rick Heinrichs; ad. Thomas P. Wilkins.
cast: Frances McDormand (Marge Gunderson), William H. Macy (Jerry Lundegaard), Steve Buscemi (Carl Showalter), Harve Presnell (Wade Gustafson), Peter Stormare (Gaear Grimsrud), Steve Reevis (Shep Proudfoot), Kristin Rudrüd (Jean Lundegaard), John Carroll Lynch (Norm Gunderson), Tony Denman (Scotty Lundegaard), Gary Houston (Irate Customer), Warren Keith (Reilly Diefenbach (voice)), Larry Brandenburg (Stan Grossman), Bruce Bohne (Lou), Steve Park (Mike Yanagita), Cliff Rakerd (Officer Olson), Bain Boehlke (Mr. Mohra), James Gaulke (State Trooper), Sally Wingert (Irate Customer’s Wife), Bix Skahill (Night Parking Attendant), José Feliciano (José Feliciano).
This highly influential and blackly comic crime drama sees Minneapolis car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (Macy), desperate for money to clear his debts, hire two thugs (Buscemi and Stormare) to kidnap his own wife. Jerry will collect the ransom from her wealthy father (Presnell), paying the thugs a small portion and keeping the rest to satisfy his debts. The scheme collapses when the thugs shoot a state trooper and McDormand’s police chief leads the investigation. Full of nuanced observation and richly comic dialogue, the film sees the Coen Brothers fulfil their considerable potential. Roger Deakins’ cinematography beautifully contrasts the wide snowy landscapes, with the blood-red violence being committed within. McDormand, Macy, Stormare and Buscemi all give career-defining performances aided by a screenplay that is lean and perfectly balanced. A film that can be appreciated more and more through repeated viewings. Followed by a 60m pilot for a TV series, which didn’t sell, but a series was ultimately taken up in 2014.
AA: Best Actress in a Leading Role (Frances McDormand); Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)
AAN: Best Picture (Ethan Coen); Best Actor in a Supporting Role (William H. Macy); Best Director (Joel Coen); Best Cinematography (Roger Deakins); Best Film Editing (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (both as Roderick Jaynes))