The R-Rated Bloody Crime Thriller On Max Launched A TV Masterpiece

By TeeJay Small | Published


By now, most film and television fans are aware of the hit FX series Fargo, which recently concluded its fifth season to rave reviews. While the show has reached incredible highs in its decade-long run on the cable network, none of it could have been possible without the landmark Coen brothers film that started it all. The original 1996 Fargo film is currently available to stream on Max, and still serves as an incredible blueprint to the beloved series, even though the direct narrative ties between the two projects are quite tenuous.

The Quintessential Coen Brothers Film


Fargo was written and directed by the acclaimed filmmaking duo of Joel and Ethan Coen. Since finding major success with the film in 1996, the brothers have continued to produce blockbuster hits including The Big Lebowski, No Country For Old Men, Burn After Reading, and Hail Caesar. Despite all their successes in the past two decades, some critics have argued that Fargo is the quintessential Coen brothers film, as its Midwest setting, genuine dialogue, and complex interwoven plot have become trademarks of the filmmaking duo.

The Cast


The film also touts an excellent cast of performers, including Shameless‘ William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Kristin Rudrüd, Harve Presnell, Peter Stormare, and frequent Coen brothers collaborator Frances McDormand. Fargo serves as a breakthrough American role for Peter Stormare, who previously led a number of European films before providing the menacing, nearly non-verbal performance as one of the kidnappers. Stormare was a close personal friend of the Coens’ before Fargo was written, and has gone on to appear in over 200 credited roles since the success of the movie.

The Story

Fargo centers on a mild-mannered car salesman named Jerry Lundegaard, who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and young son. Having incurred a great deal of personal debt after running some kind of scam out of the car dealership, Jerry becomes desperate for money, which he hopes to extort from his wealthy father-in-law. To accomplish this goal, Jerry concocts a quixotic scheme with a pair of thugs to have his wife kidnapped and ransomed, in exchange for a brand new car and half of the ransom money.

Things Don’t Go As Planned

The kidnapping unfolds into a morbid comedy of errors, resulting in Jerry’s wife getting severely injured, and two passing motorists and a state trooper getting killed after trying to intervene. As police begin to investigate the case, Jerry struggles to avoid being implicated in the kidnapping, while also running from debt collectors and fraud investigators. As Fargo continues to spin-out into an insane climax, each character in the film struggles to cover their tracks, with very little success.

A Runaway Hit

The film rapidly became a box office smash upon release, and pleased audiences and critics alike, resulting in a 94 percent certified fresh critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. Furthermore, the Fargo FX series has expanded upon the genre of Midwestern crime stories, with an added supernatural element which occasionally intersects with the plot of the film. For those who have not yet had the pleasure of catching the Coen brothers classic, Fargo is currently available to stream on Max.