Thursday, 4 August 2011

Fargo - Review

Fargo is a 1996 film released by the Cohen brothers, Joel and Ethan.  It was nominated for several Academy Awards and took home two for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress.  It was made on a tiny budget of  $7 million US dollars, which is only about $1 million more than The Room and look what Tommy Wiseau achieved!

Warning, this is a spoiler based review

I've never seen this movie, as usual, and I've avoided spoilers, but I heard that this was actually supposed to be pretty good, but then I heard the same thing about The Deer Hunter, so we'll see I suppose.

We open on a title card which tells us this is based on a true story which happened in Minnesota in 1987 and the names have been changed.  I will check to see how true that is after the movie as it wouldn't be the first movie to lie about that type of thing

Cue titles and a very white/cloudy sort of sky with a little birdie flying about very faintly in the background to some sort of pretty music, sounds a little gypsy-inspired to me.  We then see a car towing another car through a snowy road and get the title and a fade to black to the words, Fargo, North Dakota.  We fade up to a building called, The King of Clubs, that's pretty clever actually for the name of a club.

We see William H Macy enter the club where guys are drinking and playing pool to some country music and he approaches Steve Buscemi and the guy who gets eaten by compys in Jurassic Park 2: The Lost World.  Macy introduces himself as Jerry, it turns out there was a mix up over what time he was supposed to be there.  Steve Buscemi introduces himself as Carl and the other guy as something I will be spelling as Grayer, because that's what it sounds like and I don't want to check the spelling on wiki in case I spoiler myself. 

Carl and Grayer
They have a discussion about being ready for something and Jerry tries to hand over the keys to the car he has outside, but Carl wants to know about some money as well.  It seems they have been communicating through a guy called Shep and the same information hasn't been getting to both sides.  It turns out that that Jerry wants his wife kidnapped because his wife is wealthy and has a rich father so he's paying Carl and Grayer to kidnap his wife to split the ransom money with them because he is in financial difficulties.  Jerry says he can't ask his wife for the money because she would not give it to him and doesn't want to explain why he needs it.

Jerry returns to Minneapolis to see his wife preparing dinner and his father in law watching a game on the television.  The family sits down to dinner and their son, Scott, asks to be excused to go meet his friends at Mcdonalds, which the father-in-law questions.  Jerry asks his father-in-law, Wade, about some money he asked for to build a parking lot, Wade blows him off as he's lost money in the past on parking lots.  Jerry says that it could do well for his wife, Jean and Scott, Wade tells Jerry that Jean and Scott never have to worry about money.

We cut to Carl and Grayer driving, Grayer wants to stop for pancakes, Carl doesn't because they had pancakes for breakfast, but eventually caves and agrees to stop for pancakes.  At the car dealership where Jerry works who is being chewed out because the customers didn't want a sealant on their car and the factory already installed it.

Don't shout at me, my home life is unsatisfying
The customers get angry with Jerry as he's lied to them about the sale of their car.  Then we return to Carl and Grayer who are getting laid at a place called The Blue Ox, then the scene switches to them watching tv later and then back to Jerry's house.  Well that was a pointless scene.  Jean is talking to Scott in the kitchen about his grades because she doesn't feel that they're high enough and tells Scott that he won't be able to play hockey.

Wade calls to speak to Jerry and tells him to meet him later that day to discuss the parking lot plan as the numbers actually look good.  Jerry goes to see his friend Shep to ask about the guys he met in Fargo, Shep says that he never heard of Carl and doesn't vouch for him.  Jerry wants to contact them to call off the kidnapping, but Shep doesn't know how to contact them so he leaves.

In the car with Carl and Grayer, they are arguing because Carl doesn't like the constant smoking from Grayer and also the fact that he doesn't talk much.  Jerry gets a call from GMAC, whatever they are, and it seems that Jerry has been lending money against cars and fudging the serial numbers and it seems he owes about 300k.  Oh, Jerry, you dumbass.

Jean is at home knitting and watching tv when she sees a man in a black mask coming up to the windows and looking through.  Or trying to at least.

Hello?  Are you in?  I'm here to kidnap you.
He breaks the window and she screams and another man comes through the front door and grabs her, she bites him and he lets her go and she runs upstairs with the phone, locking herself in the bathroom.  They pull the phone by the cord and start breaking through the door, but it seems Jean has escaped through the window.  Carl goes running downstairs and Grayer starts looking through the medicine cabinet for some ointment to put on the bite on his hand.

He notices that the shower curtain is drawn as he looks in the mirror and Jean jumps out at him, but caught in the shower curtain she falls down the stairs.  Jerry goes to his meeting with Wade, but finds out that Wade doesn't want to lend him the money, they just want to give him a finders fee and do the business through his own company.

We then see a car in the snow from an aerial view and a man walking towards it and getting into the car, it's Jerry, defeated and angry that he's not getting the deal he desperately needed.  He scrapes the ice off his window angrily and then returns home laden with groceries.  He sees that Jean isn't home and looks at the bathroom which is completely messed up.  He then practises his phone call to Wade and eventually picks up the phone to call him.  

We then see Carl and Grayer driving in their car with Jean on the backseat under a coat, whimpering.  Grayer tells her to shut up or he'll put her in the boot again, but then they are pulled over by a state trooper.  They tell Jean to keep still and wait for the trooper to get out of his car, which he eventually does.

The trooper asks if the car is new and tells them that they're supposed to display temporary tags and asks to see Carl's license and registration, he hands over the wallet with a 50 dollar bill sticking out of the top, but the officer doesn't take it and asks him to step out of the car.  As the officer leans down to get a good look, Grayer grabs him and pulls him down, shooting him directly in the head, much to Carl's shock.  Grayer tells Carl to clean the officer off the road, so Carl starts dragging the officer back to his car, but they see a car coming in the distance.

The car slows down and looks and so Grayer moves to the drivers seat and chases after them, but loses them in the darkness, soon however, he sees the car laying in a ditch, flipped over.  He sees a man running from the car and shoots him in the back, then looks in the car and shoots the woman who is pinned inside.

We then see a painting of a goose and a lot of taxidermy birds in a room and zoom in on a woman sleeping in bed.  The phone rings and she answers it, someone tells her she has to be somewhere so she gets up and her husband gets up and offers to make her some eggs, we see as she stands that she's heavily pregnant.  She leaves the house after breakfast in her police officer uniform and gets into her car.

The police officer, Marge, arrives at the crime scene and another officer greets her and presents her with a hot drink and let's her know they have a triple homicide to deal with. Not many people are there because it's so cold, Marge goes to inspect the bodies in the car and the snow and she quickly deduces what happened and the size of the attacker from the footprints.  As she inspects the footprints around the trooper and reasons that there was a second guy who was smaller.  They check the troopers book and her partner tells her they're looking for a car with a license plate which starts DLR, Marge deduces that DLR probably means dealer plates.  Marge is smart.

Jerry has a meeting with Wade and his business partner, Wade wants to call the police because Jerry tells them the kidnappers demanded a million dollars, but of course Jerry tries to dissuade him from calling them.  Wade says they should offer to pay a half million, but Jerry manages to dissuade him.  Jerry goes home to talk to Scott who is very upset that they have taken his mother and worries that the kidnappers will hurt her and wants to call the police, but Jerry tells him they can't.

Meanwhile the kidnappers arrive at a safe house which is in the middle of nowhere, Jean tries to run, but keeps tripping in the snow so they stand and laugh.  At the police station Marge returns and her husband has brought her some lunch and they discuss her husbands paintings.  Marge's partner comes in and says they have a lead on the car and Marge goes to meet the girls who had sex with Carl and Grayer.

Well the little guy was kinda funny looking
Marge manages to get out of the girls that the two guys were, "funny looking" and "looked a bit like the marlboro man, because he smoked a lot".  At the kidnappers cabin, Carl hits the tv trying to get it working and Grayer stares at Jean as she is tied up on a chair, her cold breath creating steam through the mask.

Later that night Marge gets another late night phone call, from a guy called Mike who had seen her on the tv on the report about the shootings.  At the car dealership the next morning, Jerry tries to sell a car to a man, but is interrupted as he gets a call from Carl who tells him that circumstances have changed.  Carl tells him that they need more money because they killed three people and now they want the full 80 thousand.

Marge and her husband go for dinner and a police officer brings Marge a list of phone numbers called from the Blue Ox, one of them is Shep.  At Jerry's house, he's sat with Wade and his business partner, Wade tells Jerry that because it's his money, he's cutting Jerry out of the deal and won't let him deal with the kidnappers.  Meanwhile Marge checks herself in to the Blue Ox in search of Shep.

I just can't seem to find a space to park
Carl takes the car to the airport long stay terminal in order to steal some plates and then begrudgingly has to pay 4 dollars for the long stay parking even though he didn't park.  Jerry arrives at Shep's job, but finds that Marge is talking to Shep asking him about the phone call he got.  Then back at the car dealership Marge comes to talk to Jerry about cars stolen from the lot.  Jerry tells her they haven't had any stolen cars, then as soon as she leaves he tries to call Shep.

Marge goes to meet her friend Mike for lunch and Mike tries to come onto Marge, but Marge rejects his advances.  Then Mike tells Marge that his wife died and he was very sad to lose her and apologises and starts to cry because he is very lonely.

Carl takes a hooker to a bar called the Celebrity room where there's a country singer playing, he tries to talk to her awkwardly, then we cut to Carl having sex with her.  She gets thrown off and it's shep who throws Carl off the bed and kicks him about, he goes outside his door and beats up another guy outside, then kicks the woman as she runs away.  He goes back inside and starts strangling Carl with his own belt.

Also Carl is extremely pale.
Shep lets Carl go, then starts whipping him with the belt.  We see Carl make an angry phone call to Jerry which Wade listens in on the conversation and leaves with the money as soon as the phone call concludes.  Jerry puts his boots on to follow Wade, Wade brings a gun and meets Carl who demands to know who the hell he is.

Carl tells him to drop the money because he was supposed to be meeting Jerry, Wade won't drop the money to Carl shoots him in the chest, as Wade falls to the ground he pulls his gun and fires it at Carl, skimming him along the side of his jaw.  Carl shoots Wade to death and grabs the case and loads it into his car before driving off.  Jerry arrives at the parking lot in time to see Carl pulling away, Jerry sees Wade lying on the roof and loads him into his boot, as he leaves he sees that Carl has killed the parking attendant.  Jerry goes home and Scott tells him that someone has called for him twice, Jerry says he's going to bed.

The next day a police officer goes to see a man who reports Carl drinking at a bar, wanting to arrange a prostitute, Carl told the bartender he'd killed a person and was staying at the lake, so the bartender thought it best to call it in.  The bartender tells the police officer that Carl was a little guy and "funny looking in a general funny looking sorta way." 

Carl sits in the car looking at the briefcase full of money, realising that it a lot more than the 80 thousand he thought they were getting.  He takes out 80 thousand and takes the briefcase out to a fence and buries it in the snow and leaves an ice scraper there as a marker.

Meanwhile Marge calls a friend to talk about her friend Mike, the friend tells her that Mike never married and the woman he said he married was alive and well and Mike was struggling with money problems and living with his parents.  Jerry is writing out some serial numbers with a blunt pencil and Marge drops by to hassle him about the missing car, Jerry snaps at her and she asks to speak to the owner so Jerry says he'll do a lot count.

Marge waits in the office, but looks out of the window and sees that Jerry has driven away.  At the cabin Grayer is watching a soap opera intently as Carl returns, Carl sees that Jean is lying on the ground.  Carl gives Grayer his half of the money, but Grayer wants paying for half of the car too, but Carl shouts at him.  As Carl is leaving the cabin, Grayer comes out with an axe and attacks Carl. 

Marge gets a message over the radio that Wade's business partner had reported Jean's kidnapping, but whilst she is driving she sees the car they've been looking for at the cabin.  She approaches it carefully and sees Grayer from behind who is feeding what remains of Carl into a woodchipper. 

Blood?  No, it's, er, from a red wood tree!
Marge pulls her gun and points it at Grayer who throws a log at her then runs across the frozen lake, Marge manages to shoot Grayer in the leg.  Then we see Marge has Grayer in the back of the car, it seems that Grayer also killed Jean and Marge laments that he killed all those people for just a little bit of money.

We then cut to a motel and two police officers come into a hotel room to arrest Jerry, having tracked him down via the dealership car.  Marge goes home to her husband who tells her that his painting has been accepted for the 3 cent stamp, which she tells him is important for when they raise the postage and people have the old stamps.  End of movie.


I'm not sure how to feel about this film.  It's kind of enjoyable, kind of funny, has some good acting and some good characters.  It has a lot of pointless scenes though.  Did we need the subplot about Marge's highschool friend?  There were a few scenes in there that I thought weren't really needed and there were some things which never really got tied up.  Did the police come to arrest Jerry because of the body in his car or because he ran from an interview?  Surely he could have spun it so that he was just stressed over his wife's kidnapping and didn't know what he was doing.

Was Jean actually dead?  The closest we got to confirming it was that Marge said she was on the floor, but does that mean she was actually dead?  What exactly was Jerry doing with those cars?  Was he taking out loans for himself or for fake cars or using the customers details?  What did he use the money for?  We didn't see him have any gambling, drinking or drug problems, his house didn't look huge or overly glamorous, why did he need nearly a million dollars?

It was very slow in places and not paced all that well in other parts and I just didn't really feel like I cared about the characters enough by the end of the film to give a shit about anything that happened to them.

It was a well made film, it had some great actors, I'm just not sure that it entertained me all that much.  What I would say is that if you enjoy it, then I'm happy for you, but it's not my kind of thing.  I'm basing the score of the film on how well it was made, rather than my enjoyment as it would be unfair to give a well made movie a low score.

7 out of 10

Also, I looked it up, it's not so much based on a true story as based on a big fat lie.


  1. Peter Stormare's character is "Gaear Grimsrud".

    1. Yeah, I found that out after, when I do a write up, it's usually on my very first watch of the movie and I pause at various points to take screencaps and make notes about what's happening during the film. I don't actually look anything up about it until I'm coming to do the summary so I have to go with either what I hear them call the character on screen or what I end up associating with the character. Calling him "Guy who gets eaten by compis in Jurassic Park 2" would have been a bit of a mouthful and I had a fair idea that "Grayer" was not the correct spelling, but I went with it because you don't see his name on screen until the credits. I ended up calling the main character from Megashark vs Crocosaurus "Idiotman" even though his name is said, purely because the character was an utter idiot all the way through the movie.

  2. Can you please post a screencap of the picture of Jean Lundegaard in Jerry's office? I've been looking for it everywhere for an art project but can;t find it. :)

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    I've heard and I think it's true that Marge's learning that the high school friend had lied to her to play on her sympathies the night before makes her realize that Jerry was lying to her during the first interview as well.

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