This is one of those rare fairly recent movies in which everything just adds up perfectly. It also pleases me to see that you don't necessarily need a big budget to make a brilliant with these days and still have a great talented and acclaimed cast & crew involved in it.
This movie has always been compared a lot to "Fargo". And yes, there also are similarities; both movies involve a large sum of movie, both involve some odd but yet realistic character, both involve killings, both involve a seemingly good plan that goes from bad till worse and both involve snow. A lot of snow. "A Simple Plan" is also a very white looking movie, which provides the movie with a good- as well as beautiful looking settings and atmosphere. But perhaps the reason why this movie never really became a financial or critical big success was also "Fargo". This movie was made only 2 years after the brilliant "Fargo" and like always the majority of the public say this movie as a bad copy, trying to cash in after the success of "Fargo". And also like always, the movie is now, almost 10 years later, slowly gaining more credit and is better known and watched by more and more people.
What mainly makes "A Simple Plan" such a great movie is that it features ordinary everyday people. It makes the characters and therefor the movie as a whole, a very realistic feeling one to watch. It of course also helps that they are being played by some top-class actors. It's funny how Bill Paxton always basically plays the same guy but hey, he's good at it. Billy Bob Thornton is also always at his best playing these sort of simple minded characters. This is yet another wonderful performance by him and he rightfully so was also nominated for an Oscar for it.
This is not really the sort of movie you 1,2,3 would expect from a guy like Sam Raimi. There is also basically very little in this movie that can be described as 'typicaly Raimi'. Not even Ted Raimi is present in it! Everything indicates that his is just an in between little project for him, which all makes it sort of ironic that this is also one of his best movies.
It has a very effective story, that on top of all things is really well written and constructed. It's a character movie but also with lots of twists and turns in the actual plot. The story style reminds us of a good old fashioned film-noir. It's about ordinary people who get themselves into an ordinary situation. They form 'a simple plan' but almost immediately things start to go from bad till worse, without giving any spoilers. The story was written by Scott B. Smith, who based it on his own novel. The screenplay was even nominated for an Oscar as well.
A rare great movie, that is so great due to its realistic approach, performances and a well written and constructed story.