A Simple Plan by Scott B. Smith
A Simple Plan is simply a fantastic feature that has not received the acknowledgement it deserves, except for two Oscar nominations for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Billy Bob Thornton and Best Writing for Scott B. Smith, a Golden Globe nomination for the Same Supporting Role.
It is winter and in heavy snow, Hank aka the extremely talented Bill Paxton, his brother Jacob, the always-fabulous Billy Bob Thornton as Jacob and Lou played by Brent Briscoe find an airplane in the middle of a forest that is part of a National Reserve.
Hank is by far the more intelligent, adroit and skilled of the three, so he is the one to enter the wreck of the plane and seeing movement he tries to talk to the pilot, when crows are flying towards him, scratching his face before flying from the cockpit, where they had been eating from the corpse of the only dead man in the aircraft.
Together with the body there is a large sum of money that the three men have a dispute over, Hank thinks they should give the money to the authorities because he is smart enough to understand that this is not just money they found and that it belongs to them now, but it is in fact stealing if they keep it, while the others are sure they must have it.
Jacob is the brother who has been slow to develop and he has trouble understanding the world and expressing his – rather few- thoughts- although later developments would make the public see that his Emotional Intelligence- that is much more important than IQ- is higher than that of his brother.
Lou is a simple individual, who might be called a red neck, intent on drinking too much, inclined to have loud arguments with his wife, in public and determined to have his share of this huge amount of cash that nobody would claim and therefore he is ready to accept the Simple Plan advanced by Hank, which is that the latter will keep the money and he would burn it if there is any danger associated with it.
They would not touch it until it becomes clear that no mobsters are looking for it, they are all out of harm’s way and then they will all move out of town so that their trace cannot be followed and the wealth would be shared and this will be the happy end.
Evidently, the Plan that was so Simple gets complicated and the sum that turns out to be over four million dollars does not bring happiness, confirming thus Positive Psychology research that confirms that a lot of money does not equal happiness- one case study refers to lottery winners who have gained more than one million dollars and whose happiness levels returned to a set point, after a few months of a fortune induced high.
Sarah aka Bridget Fonda is the wife of Hank and she has two suggestions that sound wise- only in practice they would result in more trouble and death- the first of which is to get back to the plane and put back about half a million and confuse those who would find the wreck with the notion: “no one would leave so much money behind, therefore nobody has been in this plane after it crashed”
As Hank and his brother get to the wreck, a neighbor comes close looking for a fox he wants to shoot – it is bad to kill an animal- and Jacob does not have any more arguments to try and stop this hunter on a snowmobile from discovering the plane and his brother, so he just hits him on the head and kills him, after which his brother tries to dispose of the body.
As he tries to take the body away, the mastermind finds the man to be alive, but he is forced to kill him and throw the corpse and the snowmobile from a bridge in order to create the impression of an accident, only the truth about this is told by Jacob to his friend Lou and the latter is using this to blackmail their partner in crime into giving him money.
The only sensible man tries to explain why this would be so dangerous, but his accomplices do not have the needed brain power to analyze all this, so one night, as Hank is prepared to record his former companion-now-turned-enemy saying compromising things- another idea of Sarah meant to counterbalance the blackmail- a violent clash ensues and Lou comes with his shotgun on the porch, ready to kill his foe.
Jacob is torn between his friend Lou and his brother, the latter having promised to help him to buy back the old family farm- which in the first place he dismissed as a stupid, dangerous idea-and faced with this standoff and seeing as Lou fires his gun into the air, but is determined to shoot the brother, the retarded, conflicted man kills the host.
The wife is screaming, she is a potential witness of this dispute and furthermore, she knows all about the money, the crashed airplane and the killing of the snowmobile driver and the consequent cover-up, but she may have been spared her fate if she did not reach for a gun and started shooting at Hank who used the shotgun and sent the woman flying.
Somehow, Hank and Jacob get away with this by making up a script- well, it was the former thinking this scenario, obviously- wherein the duo killed each other, taking advantage of the well-known fact that they had had conflicts and this was public knowledge, together with the destitution of the dead man, his heavy drinking and his other failures and flaws.
But this is not over, the Simple Plan needs continuous adjustments and it would actually lead to an astonishing, clever, meaningful ending that adds to the pleasure of watching this phenomenal motion picture, which has a Simple Message- if you commit a crime, you have to pay for it- and is very credible even when there is so much – too much? – happening, because it all leads to a very credible and usually rejected conclusion.