Billy Bob Thornton and Bill Paxton in A Simple Plan courtesy Paramount
Last week it seemed that everything was conspiring to remind me of A Simple Plan: seeing the trailer for the Coen brothers' upcoming No Country for Old Men (based on the Cormac McCarthy novel), stumbling across Stephen King's rave review of Scott B. Smith's second novel, The Ruins, having an argument about what The Bible says is the root of all evil. So rather than ignore the signs and portents, it's my DVD Tuesday pick.

Directed by Sam Raimi and based on Smith's debut novel, A Simple Plan is a terrific example of what may be my favorite kind of thriller, the kind where someone makes a mistake that snowballs until he or she has lost everyone and everything that matters, and all efforts to make things right just make them worse. It's the quintessential noir plot, and while the poor, put-upon victim of cruel fate seems fated to get trapped in some cosmic web, the fact is he or she consistently - masochistically, it often seems - makes exactly the wrong decision, which transforms it from the afflictions of Job into something more psychologically interesting.

Midwestern brothers Hank and Jacob Mitchell ( Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton, before he got all weird and scrawny) have both stayed in the small, semirural community where they were raised, but otherwise their lives have diverged. Hank went to college, became an accountant, got married and bought a small house with his wife, Sarah ( Bridget Fonda). Jacob, who's mildly mentally challenged, stayed with their parents on the failing family farm; after their deaths, the farm was sold and he became an unkempt near-recluse whose only friend is mean, white-trash drunk Lou. Hank loathes Lou and doesn't spend much time with Jacob, but it's just his luck to be with both of them when he stumbles across a small plane crashed in a patch of isolated woods. There's a gym bag full of money in the hold - $4.4 million - and the pilot is long dead, so they decide to keep the money; after all, they tell themselves, whoever it belonged to clearly didn't come by it legally. Hank has a plan that will keep them from getting caught, and it starts with telling no one, doing nothing with the cash for a year and then leaving town to spend it. Naturally, Lou tells his girlfriend (who is, if anything, even dumber and trashier than he is), Jacob becomes fixated on buying the one thing Hank insists he can't have - the Mitchell farm - and the seeds of suspicion take root in the fertile soil of personal enmity, class resentment, and alcohol-fueled paranoia.

Amazingly enough, Raimi's bleak, bloody movie is actually a little less dark than Smith's original novel. But it's plenty dark enough, and Paxton (who's finally found the success he deserves in TV's Big Love) and Thornton, who first worked together in the similarly themed One False Move (1992), are phenomenal together. Fonda's metamorphosis from supportive, pregnant spouse to small-town Lady Macbeth is just plain chilling. So check it out and remember the doomed loser's motto: "Fate, or some mysterious force, can put the finger on you or me for no good reason at all." - Detour (1945)

Things to consider:

What's your favorite type of thriller and why? Examples?

Send your movie questions to FlickChick.

See Maitland McDonagh and Ken Fox review this week's new flicks on the Movie Talk vodcast.

Hear Maitland on the weekly podcast TV Guide Talk.

Previously in DVD Tuesday:

Taxi Driver
Hot Fuzz
Ace in the Hole
Eyes Without a Face
Citizen Kane
La Jetée
Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
Bob le Flambeur
Near Dark
Perfect Blue
Pan's Labyrinth
Les Girls
The Girl Who Knew Too Much
The Queen
Expresso Bongo
I'm Not Scared
Shocking Grindhouse Double Bill! - Scanners and The Candy Snatchers
Don't Look Now
Casino Royale
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The Prestige
13 Tzameti
The Departed
Kiss and Make Up
Kiss Me Deadly
The Long Good Friday
What Alice Found
The Devil's Backbone
The Descent
The Devil Wears Prada
Pandora's Box
The Thief and the Cobbler
Panic in the Streets/Jack Palance Interview
The Pusher Trilogy
Sunset Blvd.
In Cold Blood

Also: This week's new DVD releases