WHAT I LIKED: There are a simple set of ingredients that generally make films work - tantalising atmosphere, emotionally-engaging character arcs, thought-provoking themes - but these are things that the Coen Brothers have never been particularly interested in, and that's pretty clear from their arguable magnum-opus 'Fargo.'
The narrative follows a potentially gripping and character-testing true story about a plan that all goes South when an indebted man Jerry (William H Macy) hires some questionable folks (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife and get his father-in-law to pay the ransom. But the only person here who is treated remotely seriously is Jerry himself, as we spend most of our time with the other characters - from the kidnappers, to the small-town cop on their trail (Frances McDormand) - having ridiculously inert conversations about, say, food or boredom, or the weather.
At times, the way those conversations are written and performed makes it feel as though the film is aiming for some kind of Tarantino-esque cult status with the wise-guy accents and over-indulgent length. But though that is the case in other Coen Brothers films, here those scenes ultimately serve to expose the farce of what everyone is doing, and the likely reality of everyday American simpletons enacting such a scheme. That's amusing to watch in a kind of blackly comedic way, as what they're all doing is so gory and serious but they all act in the most stupid, blasé way.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: That comedic approach does undermine any potential for serious emotional engagement in the narrative, and what's more, the humour doesn't always land itself - a fact made all the more apparent when the scenes are so long.
VERDICT: 'Fargo,' once again sees the Coen Brothers take a potentially powerful narrative and populate it with stupid characters having conversations about nothing. The result is vaguely amusing, but lacking cinematic depth.