Drive-By Movie Review: A Simple Plan (A Movie on the Ethics of Found Money)

This is a review of the 1998 movie A Simple Plan starring Billy Bob Thornton, Bill Paxton, Bridget Fonda, and Gary Cole

Plot Summary: Two brothers and a friend find $4 million in the cockpit of a downed plane. The pilot is dead. No one is looking for the money. To keep it, all they have to do is wait.

The Honeybee: I thought you swore off doing any more of these lame reviews.   What’s the deal?

Me: Well, to be honest I kind of feel like Michael Corleone in Godfather III: “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”

The Honeybee: Is it just me, or does Pacino sound a lot like Kramer from Seinfeld there?

Me: The similarity is uncanny, Honeybee.

The Honeybee: So why did you pick this old movie to review, anyway?   What’s the point?

Me: Well, a couple weeks ago I did a post on the ethics of found money that asked my readers to consider where they would draw the line.   One reader suggested that I see A Simple Plan, as it addressed the very same topic.

The Honeybee: If you say so, Billy Bush.   Why don’t you give a quick overview for the readers?

Me: Yep. In a nutshell, three men find a crashed airplane buried in the snow out in the middle of nowhere.   Inside they find a badly decomposed body and a duffel bag with $4.4 million in it.   This movie stars Bill Paxton, who  plays a guy named Hank Mitchell.   Hank happens to be  your typical well-respected family man; he’s a hard worker with a  decent job, and a wife with a baby on the way.

The Honeybee: The other two guys are real losers.   I have to say that   Billy Bob Thornton did a great job playing Hank’s uneducated witless brother, Jacob, who couldn’t even hold a job.   Brent Briscoe played the other friend, Lou, who was basically the town drunk.

Me: Being the only responsible one of the trio, Hank wants to turn the money in.   “You work for the American dream, you don’t steal it,” says Hank.   But he is pressured by Jacob and Lou to keep it and so Hank insists that they’ll need a simple plan if they don’t want to turn the money over to the police: keep quiet and agree to let him keep the money until springtime so that when the plane is discovered they will at least know if the money they found is stolen.   By the way, you may have liked Billy Bob as an actor, but you wouldn’t have known it from all the moaning you did every time he was on screen.

The Honeybee: Guilty as charged.   It was that stupid hat he wore; it made him look like Tony Danza.


The Honeybee: Why are you staring at me like that?

Me: Anyway, the friends all agree to the simple plan.   But Hank immediately tells his wife (played by Bridget Fonda) about the money and she gets him to alter the script.  

The Honeybee:   Oops.   Apparently the plan wasn’t simple enough for good ol’ Hank.   He really should have written the whole thing down on the back of a match cover, don’t you think?

Me: It couldn’t have hurt. What follows is a series of even more bad decisions by Jacob and Lou that quickly unravels everything.   Things then start to spiral out of control, leading to some very bloody results.

The Honeybee: That was a lot of money they found.   I think I would have kept it all and left town.

Me: What?   You wouldn’t feel guilty?

The Honeybee: Okay, let me clarify things.   If it was drug money, no.   But if the dough was stolen or ransom money, then I would turn it in.   How’s that?

Me: What if the money fell off the back of an armored truck?

The Honeybee: I’d probably give it back.

Me: Probably?

The Honeybee: OKAY, OKAY.   I’D GIVE IT BACK!

Me: Why are you yelling at me, Honeybee?

The Honeybee: I’M NOT YELLING!

Me: Yes you are.

The Honeybee: NO, I’m not.

Me: I think Sam Raimi of Spiderman fame did a terrific job directing this film, and the backdrop of snow-covered Minnesota in the dead of winter  gave a pall to the story that was unmistakable.

The Honeybee: Hey, you’re actually right for once, Mr. Moviefone.   The snowy desolate setting really did have an eerie feel to it that other thrillers we’ve seen could only wish they had.   But I’m not letting you off the hook here.   Would you have kept the money if you had found it in that plane?

Me: Tempting, but no.

The Honeybee: I don’t believe you.

Me: Why not?

The Honeybee: Let’s see, it wasn’t more than three weeks ago when you came home happy as a kid in a candy store, bragging that you found five bucks in a parking lot.   You didn’t turn that money in, did you?

Me: No, I didn’t but –

The Honeybee: I rest my case!


The Honeybee: No it’s not.

Me: YES!   IT IS.

The Honeybee: Not.   And why are you yelling at me?

Me: I AM NOT YELLING!   Sheesh.   Okay.   Let’s just wrap this up, shall we?   How would you rate the movie?

The Honeybee: I think I’ve made my point, Len.   It’s not such a black and white issue is it?   Anyway, I thought A Simple Plan was good, but I wouldn’t say it was great.   My biggest gripe is that as the plot continued to unfold, it got to be a bit unbelievable.   So I can only give this a “rent” recommendation.

Me: Fair enough.   But I think this movie was excellent nevertheless.   Top notch directing by Sam Raimi, nearly flawless acting, a terrific backdrop, and a compelling storyline makes this movie a definite “buy.”

The Honeybee: You’re still red as a beet; I love it when I get you flustered.   And you thought this was going to be just another typically lame movie review, didn’t you?

Me: Well, that was the plan.


  1. 1


    Len, I was just wondering if you were going to be doing another movie review.

    I saw two lately there are probably called chick flicks although one definitely relates to personal finance: “Confessions of a Shopaholic” and “It’s Complicated”.

  2. 2


    The interactions between you and the Honeybee are very funny. They remind me of certain discussions between my husband and me.

    Personally, I would be afraid to keep that kind of money because I would worry someone would come to kill me a la “No Country For Old Men.” I guess I’ve seen too many movies 😉

    In reality, most robbers (of large amounts of money) are caught when they start spending a lot. Very few have the self-control to make a few small upgrades to their lifestyle and pay down debt. They usually buy a brand new car and other expensive toys which can’t be justified on their salary.

    • 3


      Very true, Jen. Most robbers aren’t too bright – which is probably why they’re robbers in the first place! :-)

      My biggest fear would be “what if the bills are marked?” And if they were, what if the money was the result of a murder, or something terrible like that? Taking the dough would then connect me to THAT crime and then I’d REALLY be in hot water. It is a risk I most likely wouldn’t want to take. :-)

    • 4


      You know the issue of marked bills is a very good (& scary) thought. I guess I would make a really lousy criminal or opportunist, in this case. Oh well, the odds of finding $4 million in unmarked and unclaimed bills is probably even lower than winning the lottery. Regards

      • 5


        As for being a lousy criminal, that makes two of us, Shawn. Besides, if the marked bills didn’t get me, my conscience would most likely would.

    • 8


      @Bucksome: It’s been a while, I know. The Honeybee has been uncooperative lately but, thankfully, she can be bribed. LOL I’ll check out Confessions of a Shopaholic and I will give it a review next month. Thanks for the tip! :-)
      @James: Never even heard of Bait. What’s it about, James?

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