"Blood Simple" (opening Friday at the Avco Westwood) begins with what could easily be "Paris, Texas" outtakes. As one stark, limitless vista succeeds another, we hear the familiar drawling voice of character actor M. Emmet Walsh, telling us that he doesn't care "who you are . . . the Pope or the President . . . something can always go wrong. What I know about is Texas, and down here you're on your own."
Cut to a couple driving in the rain. The woman (Frances McDormand) has decided to leave her hot-tempered, jealous husband (Dan Hedaya). The man (John Getz), a bartender at Hedaya's roadhouse near Austin, has offered to drive her to Houston. But mutual attraction detours them to the nearest motel, where Walsh, playing a private detective in Hedaya's hire, shoots the usual compromising photos.
Joel and Ethan Coen--Joel directs, Ethan produces and they co-write--take us deep into the heart of James M. Cain territory, Texas-style, where crimes of passion tend to take on larger-than-life and therefore often comic proportions. Indeed, Hedaya is so enraged at Walsh's evidence that he won't be satisfied with anything less than having the adulterers bumped off--paying Walsh 10 grand to do the job.