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Struggling Minnesota car salesman Jerry Lundegaarde (William H. Macy) has the perfect plan to finance a crackpot real estate deal. He hires a couple of thugs (Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife so her wealthy father (Harve Presnell) will pay a healthy ransom for her return. But the thugs are idiots. They manage to kidnap Jerry's wife but kill a state trooper and two bystanders along the way. This attracts the attention of the town's heavily pregnant Sheriff Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), who starts putting the pieces together.

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
What more could a film lover want than one of the Coen brothers' best movies in Fargo being released to DVD? How about it being released on the same day as Miller's Crossing? Heaven! But it was this sublime 1996 snowbound bloodbath that took the Coen's to a wider audience, helped by three Oscar nominations and a surprise win for Frances McDormand (Joel Coen's wife) for best actress.

Fargo is a rare gem indeed. It's a kidnapping thriller with comic twists thanks to the ineptitude of the crooks involved (who can forget that woodchipper in the final scene?), but it's also about the setting of Fargo itself; a real town in Minnesota. The Coens have obviously enjoyed sending up quirks of the backwoods Mid-Western town, where Paul Bunyun was born, where nothing much happens, where eerily cheery locals say "Yah", and where snow is a permanent fixture.

And well they might. As we discover from the "Minnesota Nice" featurette on this nicely packaged Special Edition DVD, Joel and Ethan Coen grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, so they certainly know the area's quirks. Using cast and crew interviews, this eloquent 20-minute featurette delves into the snow-white wasteland region Joel lovingly calls "Siberia with family restaurants", where millions of Swedes emigrated to - hence the odd dialect. Everyone is so polite there, he says, and so the culture is "one of the most repressed and therefore most violent". William H. Macy likens the Coens to "two stoners someone gave a couple of million dollars and a camera to", and reveals how he "threatened to shoot their dog" to get the lead role. McDormand, on the other hand, admits the thought of playing a pregnant Mid-Western cop didn't challenge her, and Stormare - after turning down a role in Miller's Crossing - was so excited to be offered a part in Fargo but so let down by having no lines. We also learn the truth about the "true story" of Fargo, and how a Japanese woman actually travelled there to "dig up" the money Buscemi buried in the snow but committed suicide after failing to find it.

Extra features also include a fairly bland commentary by DOP Roger Deakins (an actor's commentary would have been better), a Family Tree interactive filmography which lineally connects actors to the Coens, a surprisingly informative Trivia Track which runs captions during the movie, and an interview with the Coens on the Charlie Rose Show. Not over-loaded with features but enough to inform and entertain, the special edition is well worth the investment. Let's hope all other Coen brothers movies are given this treatment on DVD.

Published June 26, 2003

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CAST: Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Harve Presnell, William H. Macy

DIRECTOR: Joel and Ethan Coen

RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes

PRESENTATION: 1:85:1 16:9, Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio Commentary, Minnesota Nice Documentary, Interview with the Coen Brothers, Trivia Track, The Coen Brothers Family Tree, American Cinematographer Article, Trailers & TV Spots, Behind the Scenes; Photo Gallery

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: June 18, 2003

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