A Simple Plan ★★★★½

"Hank, do you ever feel evil? I do..."

Sam Raimi is frankly a mad genius; his films tend to be full of both literal and theoretical twists and turns, although here they're mostly of the latter form; A Simple Plan is far more understated and slow-burn than the majority of his other work, which brings its benefits and its downfalls, particularly in the area of pacing. However, this is the sort of chilly crime story perfect for cold nights; three friends stumble across a downed plane lodged in a deep bank of snow in the forest, containing over $4M in what is supposedly drug money. However, tensions begin to rise when the money arrives home, and the friends begin to slowly but surely turn on each other, and the crows begin to gather about the arrival of a mysterious stranger who may not be what he seems. Think Danny Boyle's Shallow Grave by way of the Coens' Fargo, and even though this doesn't quite have the same charm or wit of either of those two classic pictures, it sure is one hell of an underappreciated and genuinely pretty great backwoods thriller with enough sharp turns in the plot to send you flying out of your seat.

There's some genuinely amazing turns from Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton here as brothers with each their own deep-seated psychological and emotional problems, heightened only by the arrival of the money. Raimi's filmmaking is utterly beautiful in many of the scenes, and red-on-white of the snowy southern landscape is just endlessly breathtaking and aesthetically pleasing. The twists keep on coming and practically all pay off satisfyingly and sweetly, as deadpan and sinister as some of them may be, particularly a certain one during the third act which instantly ups the tension to a sizzling heat. Also, there are some really cute crows in this film, no joke, and one of them even flies off with a pack of money. How can you not love a film where a birb gets rich quick?

A Simple Plan may not be Raimi's finest work, but it sure is a great small-scale thriller for those long winter months. It's a clear celebration of Sam Raimi's versatility as a director, and one hell of a well-made indie cult classic. As the crow flies, this one'll do you proud.