Before “No Country for Old Men” made them “perfect” filmmakers. Before “The Big Lebowski” made them cool. After “Raising Arizona” made them fallible, there was “Fargo,” arguably The Coen Brothers first masterpiece.

Now, hopefully we have all seen the film. Poor William H. Macy plays a down-on-his luck car dealer who needs money bad. His father-in-law has it, but won’t give it up. So he does what any man would do: he hires people to kidnap his wife so that her father will pay ransom, and he will get cash. So he hires Steve Buscemi and Peter Stromere. The plan goes all sorts of bad; the body count starts to rise; and a tough Minnesota cop played by Frances McDormand gets put on the case.

The film is a fascinating mix of humor, horror, crime, and redemption. Not to mention some business with a wood chipper. William H. Macy plays an all around bad guy that you can’t help but like because he is such a putz. Stromere and Buscemi play fascinatingly dark characters that scare you with their implications and make you laugh with their demeanor. “Fargo” is a showcase for the Coen Brothers powerful characters.

They first determine when and where the story will take place. This is very important for the Brothers. Just reference any of their films. They decide the world their film will take place in and then stay true to it. In this case, we are talking about the Minnesota of a few years back. “Fargo” is fascinating to listen to. The Coen Brothers have picked up on the lingo, demeanor, and overall pleasantness of Minnesota speak (or “Minnesota Nice” as they say it is called). But since the Brothers are sick and twisted, they suppose that underneath all the niceness, some of the darkest darkness can occur.

Of course the hedgepin through all of this is Officer Marge, played expertly by Frances McDormand. She, her husband, and child-to-be create a lynchpin that the audience can cling to and see the rest of the film through.

I must admit that on subsequent viewings, “Fargo” has lost some of the magic of its initial viewing (not nearly so much as, say, “The Usual Suspects” however). But there seems to always be something new to discover. Whereas before I was blown away by the film-in-total, this time around I was fascinated by how amazingly written and drawn out these characters are, even though they may at first seem like caricatures.

For me, “Fargo” ranks above “No Country for Old Men,” but maybe I should revisit that one again, as I didn’t find it anywhere near as great as virtually everybody else in the world seems to think that it is. It may not be as purely pleasurable as a trip with The Dude, nor as intellectually curious as “O Brother” or “The Man Who Wasn’t There,” but I believe this is The Coen Brothers film to end all Coen Brothers films. It is the prime example of what they do best and why they have placed their permanent stamp on the cinematic world. And it really pulls their filmography together.

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