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Fargo (1996)

A lot can happen in the middle of nowhere

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 94 minutes

UK Certificate: 18


William H Macy plays Jerry Lundegaard, a used car salesman with problems. He is in deep financial trouble that worsens when he fails to obtain a loan from his father-in-law (Harve Presnell) who is a wealthy businessman. In desperation, he hires two peculiar thugs – Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare) – to kidnap his wife Jean (Kristin Rudrüd). The intention is that his father-in-law will pay the ransom that he will then split with the kidnappers.

The two thugs succeed in kidnapping Jerry's wife, but that is the point at which it all goes wrong. During their escape, they are stopped for a minor traffic offence and Gaear shoots the police officer. While they are trying to clear the body off the road, witnesses drive by and Gaear ends up shooting them too. Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), pregnant Chief of the local police, finds herself investigating the triple murder. While Marge follows the clues, Jerry's problems are getting ever deeper – his crooked car deals are coming back to haunt him, his father-in-law is interfering with the ransom plot, and now he also has to deal with threats from the kidnappers.

'Fargo' is a curious blend of humour and violence, none of it gratuitous. The plot is straightforward and often predictable, but the execution of the film lifts it far above the average. Frances McDormand won an Oscar for her portrayal of Marge Gunderson, and it was well-deserved – her performance is understated, simple and appealing. William H Macy is successful as the conniving car dealer, and watching him squirm adds greatly to the entertainment. The film looks beautiful, much of the action taking place against a desolate and snowy background, and some unusual camera angles add to the visual impression.

It's Got: Outstanding performances from all concerned.

It Needs: To be longer in order to spend more time on the ending.

DVD Extras A commentary by the Coen brothers would have made this perfect. Extras: Commentary with director of photography Roger Deakins, Trivia track, Documentary, Interview with the Coen brothers, Coen brothers’ family tree, American Cinematographer article, Photo gallery, Trailers, TV spot. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10


An odd cross between a farcical comedy and a crime thriller, with some peculiar characters in an unusual setting. It shouldn’t work but it does, resulting in a fine film that defies expectations.