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RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes
Some guys you should definitely not tease about their hair…
Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly MacDonald, Garret Dillahunt, Tess Harper, Barry Corbin.
“I feel pretty, oh so pretty…”
In West Texas in 1980, former Vietnam vet Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) comes across the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad as there are a congregation of bodies on an isolated Texas plain. Moss finds a satchel containing $2 million and absconds with it. He has a crisis of conscience after having left a Mexican to die from his wounds without helping him, so he returns to the scene with some water. This sets of a string of events that have the Mexican drug dealers, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Jones) and a ruthless hitman named Anton Chigurh (Bardem) after him to get the money back. What follows is a cat and mouse game between the interested parties that amount to a pile of bodies all over West Texas, with Chigurh racking up the biggest total with an air gun he uses to break door locks and a silenced auto-loading shotgun that he wields with lethal effectiveness…and a hairstyle that’s almost as deadly.
“Haha. Yeah, that’s a good one. Dorothy Hamill you say? Riotous. Here, let me tell you one. *gets gun* Know what’s worse than having a hole in your head?…”
Putting it simply, No Country For Old Men is a trip, no only in the euphemistic sense, but also across the backwaters of Texas, through the depths of calculatedly depraved precision, and to the self realization that the world around you changes, not always for the better, and that you can either roll with it or get out of its way. Saying that No Country works on several levels is not doing justice to the machinations and intricacies that are being portrayed here. Switching things up from First Person to Third and back on a regular basis, in a tight narrative of Old West – meets – film nor – meets black-humored crime drama, the Coens have crafted a highly entertaining mixed bag of a film that deserves the praise it’s been receiving.
“Hey Sheriff, ain’t that Melquiades Estrada’s body down yonder?”
“WTF?! Aw, you gotta be friggin’ kiddin’ me!”
It’s been a while since I’ve had the Coens over to my joint for dinner, 2003 in fact with Intolerable Cruelty. This time, however, they brought the mother of all potlucks. No Country is several movies in one: a noirish crime thriller, a semi-modern-day western, and an introspective treatise on fate and circumstance. It’s the first two elements with Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem that provide the meat and potatoes of the tale, and the latter element in the form of Tommy Lee Jones that forms the gravy that brings it all together.
This was Chigurh’s neighbor’s dog. He liked to bark a little too much. Still looking for Chigurh’s neighbor, FYI…
To start off, garroting, air-hammering and splatter-gunning his way into our hearts is Javier Bardem as the deliciously hedonistic hitman Anton Chigurh. Chigurh is simply the most stylish(ly coiffed) hired gun to come along that I’ve seen since Leon. But whereas Leon was a somewhat naive, almost childlike exercise in lethality, Chigurh is an adult, dealing with adult themes via a calculating, deliberate and methodical modus operandi that only comes from experience in worldly affairs and a clear perspective derived from experiences in that world. Chigurh is very unambiguous in his purpose: he whacks shit. He needs something, he takes it. You’re in his way or you have something he requires, you’re a toe tag waiting to happen. You’re his target, same result. Only in the latter case, he makes sure you know it.
“Honey, I’m home. Honey? Damn, forgot I drilled her last night after I drilled her…”
There is no inner child with Chigurh. Any semblance of innocence was bled out of this man years ago. Chigurh isn’t going to take pity on a 12-year-old girl outside his door. This is a man who would blow out the lock and drill Matilda a third eye just for having seen him. In several cases, such as an innocent bystander who’s offering a ride, it’s just a means to a (bloody) end. But in other instances, as with his pursuit of Moss, or his elimination of a key character or two, it’s because that’s the way it has to be, according to how he sees things. No arguments, no recriminations. Occasionally fate plays a hand in things in terms of the flip of a coin, but ultimately, as one key character put it, it isn’t about the coin, it’s about Chigurh. And that means your ass. Bardem is absolutely excellent in this role. Chigurh could be his defining role to date and for years to come. If there’s any further Chigurh adventures in the offing, I am so there. I loved this character.
Hands down, Chigurh has discovered the best way to buy tampons without being noticed…
As Llewelyn Moss, Josh Brolin is also quite good. Moss is a modern-day cowboy, with street smarts garnered presumably from his experiences in Vietnam. He’s not easily rattled by things that might make the rest of us run for the hills. When he comes up on the drug deal carnage, he regards it matter-of-factly. And the satchel of money he regards no more than one of the pronghorns he was hunting earlier. He also proves to be a genuinely tough hombre and a not-too-easy quarry for Chigurh, who probably isn’t used to having to look for a target more than once. They have a great hunter / prey interaction that gets turned on its ear on more than one occasion.
Okay, here are the options as I see ‘em: 1. You can return the money and Chigurh will kill you. 2.
You can run with the money and Chigurh will hunt you down and kill
you. 3. You can fight, in which case Chigurh will kill you. 4. You
can enter witness protection and Chigurh will find you and kill you.
5. You can give me the money and Chigurh will kill you.”
“What the hell kind of options are those?”
personally, I like the last one. At least I get to afford a couple of
quality hookers and blow before Chigurh gets around to me…”
Of course the spiritual center of the movie is Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who probably deserved an Oscar nod for that name alone. In three key scenes, one of which is an opening narration, a discussion with his uncle, who was shot in the line of duty and is now wheelchair-bound, and in a discussion with his wife, Bell laments the changing realities of his position and his life. Bell no longer feels up to the task of being Sheriff. He’s seen too much to have any peace of mind about his job or his life any more. He wonders how the “old-timers”, who never used to have to carry guns, would fare in his position now. It’s not too big a leap to say that the carnage that Chigurh has left for him all over Texas isn’t helping his disposition any. But Bell is just further proof that when Jones chooses the right role, or it chooses him, he’s still one of the best working in Hollywood today.
“OK, I tell you what…I’m going to flip a coin.”
“To determine whether I live or die?”
“No, to determine if I shoot you in the head or the chest, duh…”
Of course, tying all of these disparate elements together are the Coen Brothers and their crafting of this tale, from script to final product. I’ve been sleeping on the Coens for about a decade now, and I needed this movie like a cold splash in the face to wake me up and remind me what they’re capable of. This is easily their best film since Fargo and arguably their best ever in terms of solid storytelling without the occasional extreme quirkiness that have defined some of their earlier work like Raising Arizona or The Hudsucker Proxy. With No Country they paint a bleak tapestry that rivals the Texas plains themselves and manage to mix in solid action, excellent characterization and touches of black humor. It’s left up to the viewer to determine whether this is a character-driven action movie or an action-packed character piece. What I do know is that it’s damn fine piece of moviemaking.
tie this off for me. Then take this money I offer you for the shirt.
*gets gun* Then walk away, don’t look back, and think of a happy
thought. A really happy thought…”
This is a fairly disappointing disc considering the film that’s being offered. The film and the sound are fine, the picture being particularly good. But in terms of features, there are no commentaries, which should be mandatory for a movie like this. And there are only three special features. The main feature, The Making of No Country for Old Men, however, is a pretty solid 23-minute behind-the-scenes featurette detailing all of the usual aspects of making the film: stars, sets, costumes, script, crew, cast, etc. Working with the Coens is an eight-minute piece where the cast and crew tell us the obvious: that the Coen Brothers are masterful artisans of their craft and really bitchin’ to work for. And Diary of a Country Sheriff is another quickie piece highlighting Sheriff Bell and his place in the story, along with additional story elements.
“Huh, mom-in-law’s ego is still friggin’ huge even this far away…”