Written and Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.
Starring Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Harve Presnell, and Peter Stormare.
If you’re into collectible steelbooks, this 20th anniversary release of Fargo from Shout! Factory is a worthwhile pick-up. However, be aware that there’s nothing new in this edition when compared to previous DVD and Blu-ray releases. And, yes, the movie came out 21 years ago.
Shout! Factory has been getting into the steelbook game with some classics. They started with Escape From New York, The Thing, and The Fog, and now they’ve revisited a Coen brothers treasure with Fargo. If you own any previous home video editions of this film, I’ll answer your likely question first: Yes, this is a repackage of the remastered 2014 Blu-ray from MGM, with the same bonus features from the flipper DVD they released in 2003, although a couple things are missing, as I’ll detail later.
It’s a shame no new bonus features were created for this release, but it’s a worthwhile upgrade if you don’t own the film on Blu-ray, since you get remastered video as well as a nice metal case. And, yes, this is billed as a 20th anniversary edition even though the film came out 21 years ago. I guess “21st anniversary edition” doesn’t quite sound the same.
If you’re new to this movie, here’s what you need to know: Fargo, like many Coen brothers movies, is about an ordinary guy who gets himself mixed up in circumstances beyond his control. In this case, it’s a Minnesota car salesman named Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), who is saddled with $80,000 in debt (we never find out why) and decides to hire a pair of ne’er-do-wells (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife so that her rich father will pay the ransom and he’ll get his cut of the proceeds.
Unsurprisingly, the kidnappers don’t really care about violently disposing of anyone who gets in their way, and they have little regard for each other too. They’re reminiscent of the bickering peasants from Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, except those guys would have looked at these two and thought, “At least we helped a princess get through enemy territory.”
Meanwhile, Police Chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) finds herself following the trail left behind by the kidnappers, starting with two dead people who unfortunately crossed paths with them. She’s the film’s moral center, a woman in the final weeks of a pregnancy who has the kind of homespun “Aw shucks” personality that’s a stereotype of Minnesota and its neighboring states. However, she’s not afraid to take decisive action when necessary, and her refusal to give up her investigation propels the story toward its brutal conclusion.
Fargo is a movie that seems to be begging for a retrospective anniversary edition. Maybe Criterion will nab the rights and put together one of their vaunted “film class in a box” releases. In the meantime, what’s here is worth the purchase price if you haven’t bought this movie on disc before.
- Audio commentary with cinematographer Roger Deakins: I’ve heard better tracks. Deakins lapses into silence a lot and seems to have a hard time figuring out what to talk about, since he notes early on that the Coens didn’t have a lot of budget to work with and thus had to rely on simple camera setups. However, he does talk about his experience working for them on this and other films of theirs.
Note that the trivia track from earlier releases, which provided a nice complement to Deakins’ commentary, is missing here.
- Minnesota Nice: This featurette runs not quite 30 minutes, but it’s an insightful look at the making of the movie. It features interviews with McDormand, Macy, Stormare, and others.
- Interview with the Coens and McDormand: This is a group interview from the Charlie Rose Show. Rose is a good interviewer who tends to dig deeper than most, so this is a worthwhile 20 minutes.
- American Cinematographer article: This print piece looks at the technical aspects of shooting the film, with comments from Deakins and the Coens.
- Still gallery: About 70 pictures from the making of the movie.
- Theatrical trailer and TV spot
The advertising gallery that was found in the original Special Edition DVD is missing from this release, as is an Easter egg that enabled alternate versions of the menus.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★