Deep in the heart of Texas, the sleazy owner of a honky-tonk plots revenge on his unfaithful wife, who's been messing around with one of his bartenders. The agent of vengeance is a cynical divorce detective (M. Emmet Walsh) who isn't opposed to taking a little work on the side. Joel and Ethan Coen's 1984 film is one of the most successful American independent features ever made, and its plot—a bald pastiche of James M. Cain—contains some ingenious, enjoyable reversals. Still, the movie remains mired in a smart-alecky film-school sensibility. Showing no detectable investment in the characters, the Coens seem to signal to their hip urban audience that they share their giggling contempt for the pulpy conceits on display.
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