A supreme gothic thriller made on a shoestring budget, but rich in wit, intrigue, style, moodiness and suspense. The plot is deliciously complex and rife with edgy misunderstandings.
Texas roadhouse owner Julian Marty (Dan Hedaya), his bored wife, Abby (Frances McDormand making her film debut), her bartender lover, Ray (John Getz) and a sleazy private detective called Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) all become entangled in a hair-raising web of murder and double-cross.
Ray, the initially sympathetic “other man” in the love triangle at the core of the plot is called upon to perform unspeakable acts of violence; nasty boo-hiss husband Julian suffers a demise so horrible it wins him our sympathy, and Abby the femme fatale ends up the nearest thing to an action hero.
Moreover, the film’s voice-over narrator, a role normally reserved for the protagonist-hero, turns out to be the real villain of the piece – a self-styled private investigator who’ll do anything to support the pursuit of money and his own twisted view of the world.
M. Emmet Walsh plays the part to perfection, giving us a new archetype of the moral terrorist with a sick sense of humour masquerading as an appreciation of a perverse universe.
Throughout this small group of characters circling each other in the cold night of the desert, the Coen brothers – Joel (director) and Ethan (producer) – produced a benchmark movie as their astonishing film-making debut.
M. Emmet Walsh