A small-town barber (Billy Bob Thornton) tries to kill two birds with one stone by blackmailing his wife’s lover (James Gandolfini) to get the money for a get-rich-quick scheme—but the birds he winds up killing are literal instead of figurative. Brothers Joel and Ethan Coen revisit the film-noir conventions they first explored in 1984’s Blood Simple
—Frances McDormand even returns as the cheating wife—and the result is stylish, lean and economical, with the usual classic film-noir helpings of irony and poetic justice. In fact, it’s all a little too symmetrical; once again, the Coens have made a movie that’s more about making movies than it is about the story it tells. It’s a film noir once removed, but still engrossing, with fine acting by Thornton and Tony Shalhoub as a slick lawyer.