Fargo (1996)

A poker-faced slalom through the icy fields of true-crime docudrama, Joel and Ethan Coen’s cascade of frozen Minnesotan cops and crime is probably the loopiest based-on-fact murder drama ever made, something like In Cold Blood reimagined by Dave Barry. Somehow, the filmmakers tell the snowbound saga of a tumbling-dominoes permafrost bloodbath—featuring nerve-frayed scam source William H. Macy, wired hired gun Steve Buscemi, and serene pregnant policewoman Frances McDormand (who won an Oscar for her performance)—as cold realism, yet retain their trademark absurdism and larky rhythms. Having grown up in a Minneapolis suburb, the Coens know the vernacular inside and out; though it often feels like a snarky plummet down a long flight of stairs, the movie ends up being a celebration of quiet banality. By the time we reach the wood chipper, we’re as thankful as McDormand’s Chief Marge that there’s a mittened world full of idiotic pleasantries and all-you-can-eat restaurants to go back to.

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