No Country for Old Men (2007)
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Review Date: February 19, 2008
Director: Ethan and Joel Coen
Writer: Ethan and Joel Coen
Producers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin
Josh Brolin as Llewelyn
Javier Bardem as Anton
Tommy Lee Jones as Ed
A good ol’ country boy with a gun happens upon a “drug deal gone bad” and finds himself $2 million dollars in cold hard cash at the same time. Of course, when that much money disappears from a deal gone awry, “people” always come a’ knocking and in this case, the guy doing the knocking is Javier Bardem in a nasty wig and an endless supply of air in his gun. Don’t ask. A lot of murders ensue, as well as an existential undercurrent which I did not “get”. Got me, friend-o?
What an odd ending. It’d been a while since the conclusion to a film sideswiped me as much as this one did (a couple that I can remember off the top of my head are RULES OF ATTRACTION and LIMBO), but since it’s coming from the Coen brothers, I’m not gonna bust too many balls about it, although I really thought there were at least 2-3 scenes left to go at the end of this one. Abrupt and open-ended resolution aside, I was engaged throughout most of this film, but especially during its first hour and some, when the entire set-up of bat-crazy Javier Bardem and his Michael Myers persona starting huffing and puffing through Texans like it was going out of style. As per most Coen bros movies, this one looked absolutely stunning as well, particularly during many of its earliest scenes in the desert (aka New Mexico). All of the actors were perfectly cast as their characters, especially all of the secondary and post-secondary ones. That fat lady who Bardem approaches in a trailer early on in the movie, was one of my favorites and of course…the old guy in the gas station. Creeeeepy scene. Woody Harrelson, as much as I love the dude, was probably my least favorite, as he just looked and sounded too much like “Woody Harrelson”, and his character wasn’t particularly integral to the story, which also made me appreciate him that much less.

Josh Brolin, on the other hand, was as rock solid here as he was in AMERICAN GANGSTER. Love the ‘stache, man…good stuff! His film wife, Kelly McDonald, was also quite effective, especially in her scene with Bardem, while Tommy Lee Jones…well, I believe his scenes were meant to mean something more than I picked up on (I’m a little “slow” these days), but he definitely fit the grizzled old soon-to-be-retired Texas Ranger to a leather-faced tee. I also enjoyed the appearance by an almost unrecognizable Stephen Root, but was the actress playing McDonald’s mother a joke or something? She felt like a character from an SNL sketch. But ultimately, the movie rides of Bardem’s every scene and word, and he gets into this bad motherfucker like no other character I’ve ever seen him play before. As if sporting one of the best “worst” haircuts in the history of film wasn’t enough…the man scared the shit out of me every scene that he was in. One of my favorites had to be the one in which he starts making “small talk” with the aforementioned gas station owner (“Don't put it in your pocket, sir. Don't put it in your pocket. It's your lucky quarter.”)

All that good stuff aside though, the film did start to lose me a little in its second half, with the Jones scenes taking me “out of it” whenever injected into the lead plotline, some suspension of disbelief, and I can’t say that I really “got” what really happened at the end of the movie (but I’m sure some of you will email me with the real skinny). That said, I’m one of those Coen brothers movie lovers who, oddly enough, doesn’t generally go nuts over their films upon first viewing (you can read my original reviews of FARGO and THE BIG LEBOWSKI if you don’t believe me – I’ve since re-considered and upgraded my ratings of each film), so that might be the case with this flick as well…who knows.

That said, I can’t really recommend this movie to anyone looking for a thrill-ride or a film with a peppy pace, as this movie is anything but. It has a deliberate pace (it’s slow-moving, yo), and even though it provides plenty of murders and blood and even a bone sticking out of some guy’s arm at one point, it doesn’t really provide all that much action overall, and would likely bore the more ADD-infected in the audience. The film is chockfull of suspense though, and even though the lead baddie (go Bardem!) seems to be the dramatic equivalent of a slasher movie psycho (nothing kills this guy!), he’s a ton of fun to watch with Brolin as a nice counterbalance. If you’re a fan of the Coens, of course…this one’s a no-brainer. But as I ended my FARGO review back in 1998, I’m not sure I understand all of the “masterpiece” talk over this film though. Maybe in a few years, I’ll “get” it. Or maybe not. PS: Horrible title…and I KNOW it’s based on a book…I don’t care! It’s still a horrible movie title.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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