Watching: A Little Bit of Money

Three men, a pile of cash … what could go wrong?

By The Watching Team

Dear Watchers,

We know your watching time is limited. And the amount of things available to watch … is not. Looking for a movie? Nearly any movie ever made? It’s probably streaming somewhere. That’s a lot of movies.

Below, we’re suggesting two of them, the latest of our weekly double-feature recommendations. We think the movies will pair well — with each other and with you.

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Your weekly double feature: A little bit of money

From left, Billy Bob Thornton, Bill Paxton and Brent Briscoe in “A Simple Plan.”BBC

Near the end of the Coen brothers’ neo-noir classic “Fargo,” Marge Gunderson, a small-town Minnesota police chief played by Frances McDormand, reflects on a phony kidnapping scheme that has left many people dead. As one of the perpetrators sits silently in the back of her squad car, Marge inventories the losses before asking, rhetorically: “And for what? A little bit of money.”

Three years later, the director Sam Raimi, a friend and occasional creative partner of the Coens’, returned to snowbound Minnesota for “A Simple Plan” (1998), a pulpier rumination on greed and betrayal, but with a uniquely devastating sibling relationship at its center. Currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, the film begins with three men, two of them brothers, finding more than $4 million in cash tucked into the wreckage of a downed plane; they agree to split it evenly but to keep it under wraps until the dust has settled. The pact strains pre-existing tensions between Hank (Bill Paxton), a middle-class family man, and his brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton), a blue-collar simpleton with a different read on the situation. As the police and various shady characters start poking around the town, their loyalty is tested to thrilling and heart-wrenching effect.

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The longstanding model for this type of story is John Huston’s “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948), which is also about three men who agree to split some money. In their case, it’s whatever gold they find in the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico, and they grow more paranoid and mistrusting the closer they get to a payoff. Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt star as out-of-work Americans who persuade an old prospector (Walter Huston) to strike out on the expedition. Much of the film is a rousing adventure, as the three men work together to thwart local bandits and claim untapped riches for themselves. But money reveals the true nature of these characters, especially Bogart’s inveterate schemer, who assumes that everyone’s soul is as black as his own. SCOTT TOBIAS

Stream “A Simple Plan” on Amazon and Hulu. Rent it on Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

Rent “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” on Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu and YouTube.

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