The brothers Coen have succeeded in putting together a thrilling kidnap mystery. Set in snowy rural Minnesota, Fargo tells the story of a botched kidnapping plot hatched by an incompetent used car salesman, Jerry Lundegaard (Macy), which is painstakingly and politely unravelled by ace trooper Marge Gunderson (Mc Dormand). Lundegaard hires two incompetent criminals (Buscemi, Stomrmare) to kidnap his wife and exact a ransom from her rich father. Minnesota is renown for being a particularly politely peopled place, and this film heaps niceties on you like spades, which is perhaps my favourite part of it.

William H. Macy … Jerry Lundegaard

Frances McDormand … Marge Gunderson

John Carroll Lynch … Norm Gunderson

Steve Buscemi … Carl Showalter

Peter Stormare … Gaear Grimsrud

Kristin Rudrüd … Jean Lundegaard

Harve Presnell … Wade Gustafson

Tony Denman … Scotty Lundegaard

The Coens are still a million miles from Hollywood staple, but with Fargo’s comic felicity, gun-packing coolness and ability to come up with the totally unexpected, they maintain their place among America’s most important filmmakers. Excellent. Empire
Gunderson’s investigation into the murder of a state trouper, killed during the botched kidnapping, is at times monotone but methodical and relentless. She breaks her politeness once saying to Lundergaard “you have no call to get snippy with me”, which in itself is sensational. See the snippy snippet below. I won’t share the whole scene as it does contain some spoilers. Why do I like this? Likely because it is one of the consistent comedic moments which are scattered throughout the film. We also have Showalter’s (Buscemi) constant and increasingly gory fumbles as he is trying to obtain payment for his illicit activities, which add a layer of levity to an otherwise quite serious topic.


The dark and cold weigh down everything, and in the middle, in their warm cocoon, are Chief Marge and her hubby, Norm, the painter of ducks. Without them, “Fargo” might have been “In Cold Blood” laced with unseemly humor. The Coens sometimes seem to scorn their characters, but their love for Marge redeems “Fargo.” Marge is the catalyst, and her speech at the end is Shakespearean in the way it heals wounds and restores order…Roger Ebert

Fargo is a dense film of tremendous merit. The dogged pursuit of the truth and exposing of the pathetic criminals trying to dupe Gunderson was destined to end poorly. There are so many memorable scenes and tropes: the coldness of the third rate kidnappers as contrasted with the coldness of Lundergaard’s father in law (Presnell), the disappointment of Mr Gunderson’s performance in a duck painting competition and the constant unending nightmarish pressure on Lundegaard himself make this a special film. I recommend it very highly indeed.