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Case Number 00041

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A Simple Plan

Paramount // 1998 // 121 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Sean Fitzgibbons (Retired) // June 25th, 1999

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All Rise...

The Charge

Sometimes good people do evil things.

Opening Statement

This well acted film proves what we've known all along: money is the root of all evil. Paramount releases A Simple Plan with a simply beautiful anamorphic transfer.

The Evidence

Originally a novel by Scott B. Smith (who also wrote the screenplay), A Simple Plan is the story of three men who find "the American dream in a gym bag." While searching for a fox in the woods, the trio stumbles upon a crashed plane. Inside the plane the men discover a gym bag full of money (4.4 million dollars as we soon find out). Upon finding the money, level headed accountant, Hank Mitchell (Bill Paxton) decides to turn the money over to the police. Hank's mentally impaired brother, Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton), and his friend, Lou (Brent Biscoe), feel that they should keep the money since they found it. Tempted by being a millionaire, Hank gives in and decides to hold the money for a few months to make sure no one comes looking for it, and if anyone does he will burn the money; masking all evidence of their theft.

Thus begins A Simple Plan. I won't go into anymore plot details as the film progresses with some great twists and turns. One thing that I feel is done masterfully in this film is the portrayal of the characters. As each character does horrible things to protect their money you still find yourself feeling compassionate for these characters. Despite the evil acts they commit, you still want them to get their money and have a better life.

As for the disc, Paramount really scores big points this time around. The 16x9 transfer for A Simple Plan is, truly, one of the sharpest and clearest I have ever seen on DVD. I kept on hitting my zoom button during the film looking for the slightest picture imperfections, but they weren't there! Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, this film will definitely hold up as a great transfer for years to come. As for audio, A Simple Plan is offered in a 5.1 Dolby Digital track. This film is not heavy on explosions or gun fights (although there are a few, and when they come you can hear it!) but mainly consists of dialogue. The track is fine but it doesn't really use any surround effects, but I doubt the audio track released with the film in the theaters did either. This just isn't a film that revolves around surround effects.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Paramount really could have made A Simple Plan one of their best DVDs, and one of the best DVDs available, period. This, of course, all depends upon the extra features. Typical Paramount, you get a theatrical trailer. A commentary or even a featurette would have made the disc outstanding…but Paramount drops the ball yet again.

I won't complain too much though. If Paramount can continue to deliver a great 16x9 transfer on all their discs, like they have with this disc, I will be a happy camper.

A Simple Plan is also a pretty heavy film. It's not the kind of movie you want to watch everyday, but every once in a while. It's still one of the best films released last year, but some may opt just to rent this disc and not to own it.

Closing Statement

For the first time in a long time, Paramount has earned the $25 cost of the disc with a superb 16x9 transfer of an outstanding film.

The Verdict

Acquitted on all counts. I'll consider the 16x9 transfer an "extra feature" as they are so rare on Paramount releases.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 100
Audio: 85
Extras: 30
Acting: 95
Story: 95
Judgment: 81

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• English
Running Time: 121 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Drama

Distinguishing Marks

• Trailer


• IMDb

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