[Note: I watched the Director’s Cut, which apparently mainly just tightened up some editing, and included music from the theatrical release that rights issues prevented from being in the original home release.]
I liked how unaware the characters were of their own situations; they might seem like fools in their extremely flawed understandings but they really just aren’t aware of the whole picture. It reminds me of how so many films have characters crucially leaving out key information, leading to drama (rom-coms are particularly notorious for this), but it works perfectly in this film because it is so nihilistic and about the ironies of life and death. The sort of comic nihilism on picture here clearly is a precursor to the Coen’s more sophisticated examination of it in future (especially in Fargo and No Country for Old Men).
I loved the cinematography. I liked the usage of upside-down shots, I loved the lighting in the burial scene, and I liked the visual references to other films. The film reminded me of Tarantino in how visually derivative it was, but I don’t say that as a bad thing at all. I love visual references! This was a patchwork noir drawing on all sorts of other films.
I do wish the characters had more to them, but the film didn’t have an especially long running time and was a first effort. This is an excellent noir and a fantastic film, hinting at concepts, visual styles, and characterisations the Coen’s would go on to demonstrate in even better films.
I give it two and a half edited photos, and a last paycheck.