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What am I going to tell you about Joel and Ethan Coen's Fargo that you don't already know? My favorite movie from the filmmaking brothers, Fargo is an infinitely successful black comedy with memorable performances from Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare. When an Oldsmobile salesman reaches the end of his rope, he enacts a terrible plan to have his wife kidnapped and offered for ransom. Things go downhill quickly as a plethora of dimwits gets involved in the ruckus. Frequently hilarious, occasionally violent and altogether entertaining, Fargo's recently remastered Blu-ray edition is now available in a slick Steelbook edition thanks to the fine folks over at Shout Factory.
My friend and I spent several hours discussing the Coen Brothers over beers in college and I came to the following conclusion: I am not a blind acolyte to their religion. I like but don't love The Big Lebowski; enjoy Blood Simple's noir thrills; and have difficulty changing the channel when O Brother, Where Art Thou? is on. But for every one of those there is an interminable Intolerable Cruelty or misguided The Ladykillers. But, damn, Inside Llewyn Davis is an amazing movie. The brothers are truly unique auteurs, and, if nothing else, provide something unique if instantly recognizable in each of their films. This one just happens to be my favorite.
Fans will recognize the now-trademark blend of deadpan, dark humor and human drama. Jerry Lundegaard, Macy's tragically humorous character, floats a huge GMAC loan with non-existent collateral and gets in way over his head when corporate starts asking questions. He desperately takes the advice of a co-worker to hire criminals Carl Showalter (Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Stormare) to kidnap his wife, ask her wealthy father to pay a ransom, and then split the profits with the kidnappers to pay back the loan. That does not go as planned, of course, and a trail of blood stretches across frozen Minnesota. Local police chief Marge Gunderson gets involved, don't ya know, when Grimsrud shoots a state trooper and some witnesses, and does some early morning sleuthing in one of the movie's funniest scenes. She tracks the chaos back to Lundegaard, and goes to visit him at work, much to his chagrin.
As a bonus feature on the Blu-ray illustrates, the Coens apparently nailed their portrayal of the friendly Minnesota locals. That is important, as the film is more about the characters than the story. And Fargo very much focuses on Marge, who does not even appear on screen until roughly twenty minutes into the film's 98-minute running time. Scenes like a lunchtime conversation between Marge and her husband, Norm (John Carroll Lynch), and an awkward encounter between Marge and an old classmate (Steve Park) are brilliant in their impactful simplicity. McDormand is just perfect for this role and subtly hilarious, as is Macy. Buscemi is livewire neurotic as always, and most people remember the wood-chipper as one of the film's key images. I won't bother diving into film-school fetishizing or further debate about Fargo. You've likely seen it, and you may just love it. Whether or not you purchase this newly released edition from Shout Factory depends on how much you like Steelbooks. This is the same disc that was originally released in 2014, and the quality remains top-notch.
The original Blu-ray release of Fargo was grainy and suffered from edge enhancement and digital noise. The remastered edition offers a much-improved 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image. The grain is steady and film-like, and fine-object detail is heavily improved. Skin tones appear accurate, and colors are nicely saturated. The previous disc's digital appearance is all but gone, and the film looks great in motion. There's a bit of black crush here and there, but you won't find digital noise in these snowy landscapes. The print is clear and free from defects, and this is a very strong presentation.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is effective and handles this dialogue-heavy film well. There are some decent atmospheric effects, and a couple of action bits offer surround and LFE support. The music, effects and dialogue are layered appropriately, and the track is free of distortion or crowding. An English 2.0 Dolby Digital mix is included, as are 5.1 Dolby Digital French and Spanish dubs. You can select English SDH, French or Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
There are entire Internet forums dedicated to Steelbooks, so they are definitely popular among collectors. I think they're slick, and often choose store-exclusive Steelbooks when purchasing new releases. That said, I do not double dip exclusively for packaging, so I would not have purchased this edition had DVD Talk not provided it for review. That said, this is a gorgeous, glossy package with interior artwork to boot. Bonus features include an Audio Commentary by Cinematographer Roger Deakins; a Trivia Track; Minnesota Nice (27:47/SD) documentary; an American Cinematographer Text-Based Article; Still Gallery; Trailer (1:58/HD); and TV Spot (0:31/SD).
Same remastered Fargo, new Steelbook packaging. That's what you're getting with this Shout Factory release. The movie is brilliant. The packaging is slick. Whether or not you need this version is up to you. Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.