Three men stumble upon a crashed personal airplane buried in the snow in the middle of the woods. An inspection of the interior of the craft reveals a dead pilot and a gym bag containing $4.4 million. The men briefly discuss turning the money in to the police before the talk turns to the option of keeping the money. Hank Mitchell (Bill Paxton), the most reluctant of the three, finally agrees with his brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton) and his brother's friend Lou (Brent Briscoe) as long as some precautions are taken. The main one is the Hank himself, the most level-headed of the three, holds on to the money until it is determined that no one is looking for it. If there is any sign of trouble he will burn the money. All agree to this simple plan; a plan that becomes less and less simple as complications arise.
The first complication comes when Hank's wife Sarah (Bridget Fonda) insists that $500,000 of the money is returned to the plane so that no one thinks it has been yet discovered. While Hank is busy with this chore, his slow-witted brother panics when someone approaches the road near the crash on snowmobile. Hitting the interloper with a tire iron, Jacob accidentally kills the man, a fact that needs to be covered up quickly. Other complications ensue when Lou wants his share of the money early and when Jacob insists on buying his parents' abandoned farm in town, instead of moving elsewhere as agreed. When the dust finally clears, the man on the snowmobile isn't the only fatality.
"A Simple Plan" is a sobering look at the weaknesses of the human animal. Where its nearest cinematic relation, "Fargo", found humor in this weakness, director Sam Raimi's drama finds none. As the situation becomes more and more desperate for the film's protagonists, they take increasingly more desperate measures. And yet the implied suggestion, that any one of us is capable of things we never dreamed of when faced with dire consequences, rings true. Billy Bob Thornton and Bridget Fonda are standouts in the cast, each bringing a shade a subtlety to their characters. Though slow moving and occasionally dull, "A Simple Plan" emerges as thought-provoking morality tale.