A reversed noir with an horror twist. A great start to a meteoric career.
By reverse noir, I mean the private dick is the sideshow, not the protagonist. He’s still hardboiled and gruff, playing both sides, but he fucks up everything. He is the reason it doesn’t work out in the end. That is tinged with horror vibes: dream sequences with fancy match cuts and camera trickery, a guy getting shot that refuses to die, a Final Girl that vanquishes the monster (the private detective).
As with (future) Coen films, every single random character is filled with personality and life, even if this requires an economy of speaking parts. No character is left bare, even when appearing for a few seconds.
The title is ironic, it’s not a bloody simple plot. Start off classic, bar owner has a wife, coveted by an employee, and they get frisky. The husband has evidence, then the employee confronts with back pay, and gets rebuffed. The lovebirds sort of move in together and the husband harasses them, but gets beaten up by his wife, while the lovebird provides emotional support.
The husband, fuming, gets back to the private detective with a big offer for a whack job, while he goes away for a few days. The detective figures he can pocket the money risk-free by robbing the lovebirds, faking their dead pictures, but he gets greedy and shoots the husband with her gun.
The lovebird notices the husband is dead with the wife’s gun, and buries the body, not before noticing HE LIVES! This shakes him to his core, and drives him away from her. She gets spooked by this cryptic talk and doesn’t find out her husband was killed until the private detective is onto them.
The lovebird gets shot just like that and what follows is not dissimilar from the last confrontation between Ripley and the Alien, but with Frances McDormand keeping her modest nightgown.
Everyone loses everything because it’s a noir film, most things are left implied and everybody talks in riddles.