Review: "No Country for Old Men"
122 minutes of Action/Drama
2007: Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen - (Can you say "Fargo?")
Bardem - the psychopathic villain hired to retrieve the $2 million lost in the drug
Josh Brolin - a welder, hunter, Viet Nam vet who happens across the money and decides to
Kelly MacDonald - his wife. Passive and compliant.
Tommy Lee Jones - an utterly ineffectual older local Texas sheriff (He played the FBI lead
in the Fugitive.)
Woody Harrelson - a second pursuer of the money, hired by the drug dealers' banker.
Critics give this an A rating: 12 reviews.
7485 Yahoo users give this a B+ rating.
This is a stunningly thought-provoking film. It is so much better
than other films I have seen
recently, that it will probably be called
a "masterpiece". The parched West Texas landscapes
with their stark desolation and windswept
silence are a fine back backdrop for this "cat and mouse"
movie. The cat is a professional
killer hired by a drug cartel to get back its $2 million dollars
after a drug deal goes awry. The
mouse is a tough Texas welder-Viet Nam Vet who takes the
money after coming across the remnants of
a gruesome shoot-out while hunting antelope.
The Texas sheriff is more an observer
than a player. He comments on the chase remind
me of the chorus in a classic Greek
"If you were Satan and you were
settin around tryin to think up somethin that
just bring the human race to its knees what you would probably come up with
And he always arrives too late to avert
each new shooting. Asked if the stories he tells, for
he is a third generation Texas lawman,
are true, he says: "I can only say I guarantee they are
By all accounts, this movie has the most frightening and fascinating villain since
Hannibal Lechter. He is tall, pale
(like a vampire) and slouches a little as he carries what
we first think is a portable oxygen tank,
but soon learn is a tank of compressed air which
powers his cattle-stun-gun. His is
a smile with no warmth. It is that of pure Evil relishing
the Fate he is about to deliver a new
victim. His voice is bass, decisive and menacing.
In his unhurried relentlessness, he is Death, as in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal.
His pursuit cannot be stopped.
At first, he uses an electronic homing device to locate the
trail of the money. Then we see him
cogitating malevolently his next pursuit, using the clues
he finds when the "mouse"
thinks she has made an escape. He is Karma. He turns the hunter
into the hunted. His victims are at
first wounded and made slow and vulnerable. Like Fate, he
is unpredictable. At times, he
seems eager to find a reason to kill. But his weapon of choice
is a "humane" cattle stun gun.
Its killing is instantaneous. He is certifiably insane. He gives
his victims a chance to live if they will
guess whether a coin he has just flipped is "heads" or
"tails". Unlike Hannibal,
his bromides to those he is about to murder are fuzzy and bizarre.
The villain's Dutch bowl haircut makes
him standout. His eyes refuse to blink. But, for all
the killing, the suspense was somewhat
wanting; such is the sense of inevitability that the
villain's pursuit had... But we
keep hoping, he will be dispatched. Horror films all end
happily, we keep telling ourselves.
I found the ending way too sudden and unexplained. It was sped through at a pace
twenty times faster than the rest
of the film. It was as though the film's budget would not
allow the film to run an extra ten
minutes longer to make sense of it all. A preachy
story by the Sheriff lamenting his
powerlessness in the face of the new Greed, Drugs
and Callousness left too much
unsaid. The ending was as arbitrary as much of the
villain's decision-making to kill
or not to kill. Maybe, that is the film's message. Realistically,
much as we might try, things are
often beyond our control and we cannot shape or control
our fate. The
"hero" - the hunter - said he wanted to take the fight to the villain. But
even got started in that.
Much as it stopped me cold and made me think, I would not see the film again. I
pretty well, The drawl was no problem. The characters just had
limited appeal. The best, by
far, was the welder-hunter who takes the two million dollars away
from a thirsty, dying Mexican drug
dealer. He is independent. He is a proud, tough realist.
Mexican had been badly shot when the weld-hunter finds him. He desperately
The welder-hunter coldly tells the wounded drug dealer that he has no water.
And instead asks him where the
"ultima hombre" is, the last one left standing in the battle.
Not getting a reply, the
welder-hunter then takes the money, goes home, stashes it, then tells
his wife not to ask any questions
about where he's been. Many hours later while preparing to
go to bed, he finally remembers the
wounded Mexican who wanted a little water. Still, we
have sympathy for him, because he
does go back with water in the middle of the night.
And that is when his troubles
I can certainly imagine what I might do if I were to
much money. I can
understand his desire to turn his trailer-home life around. I can appreciate
that he was a Viet Nam vet who had
been trained to kill and improvise. I admired his courage.
But I would have given more credit
to his pursuer and taken the two million and gone to Rio,
or some such place, without waiting
to see if I was being pursued. We are given no reason
to understand why he chose not to
do this. (And that would have taken me beyond the
range of the electronic devise
hidden away in the bag of money. Another thing, I would
have found a new container for the
money. Leaving it in the same carrying case, just
made it easier to spot. But then,
that would have changed the story too much.)
As it was, the characters were simply pawns in a contest of survival against a Fate
which was sealed when the drug
money was taken home by the hunter about to become
the hunted, The movie, set in
the early 1980s, is saying that we have entered a new era.
This is "no country for
men". Instead Drugs, Greed and Ruthlessness have won out.
Of interest, was how differently
each faced his immediate demise.
Before I end, I want to say there were a few moments of levity and humor to admire.
welder comes back into a
store in which he bought a pair of boots. He is wearing little else
except a hospital robe.
The shop keeper ignores his bloody bandages and nearly naked
appearance, and asks:
"How are those boots I sold you working out?" (Shades of
"Other than that, Mrs.
Lincoln, how was the play?")
across another grisly murder scene, the sherrif's deputy says: "It's a mess,
ain;t it, sherrif."
The sherrif replies: "If it ain't, it'll do till a mess gets here."
the welder tells his wife: "If I dont come back, tell my mother I love her.
announces the news: Your
mothers dead. He answers: "Then Ill tell her myself.
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