When Billy Bob Thornton appeared in 1992 as the co-writer and co-star of the fantastic “One False Move,” Hollywood had absolutely no idea what to do about Arkansan. He’s not a bad guy, nor is he a classic handsome top man. This changed overnight with “Sling Blade,” in which he disappeared playing an intellectually disabled man who befriends an abused child. He is also threatening there, but there is a remarkable stillness in his portrait. Simply sitting and gazing into the distance, as if deep in thought, Thornton invites us into the inner life of a puzzling character.
Both Coens take advantage and break this placidity with Ed Crane in “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” Thornton’s Crane is a small-town guy who, on the surface, does nothing but cut his hair, smoke cigarettes, and stand still when his alcoholic wife, Doris (Frances McDormand), has an affair with him. her owner, Big Dave Brewster (James Gandolfini). But there’s so much more to Crane. Coens gives us access to Crane’s thoughts (spoke serenely through Thornton’s voiceover), and, contrary to what people think, he has everything. However, when his blackmail scheme leads to Brewster’s murder, he shows little interest in defending himself. Thornton is rarely shot without a cigarette in his finger or dangling from his lips (in the film’s commentary, Thornton says he simulated Crane’s act of smoking in part while hosting the talk show Jack. Paar). He is a mystery to everyone in his life, but not to us. He was a man resigned to mediocrity, and it would be impossible to skin his nose if he went to his grave looking like a horse. This whole “living” thing is a baffling one anyway.
https://www.slashfilm.com/941684/12-best-performances-in-coen-brothers-movies/ The 12 Best Performances in the Coen Brothers Movie