Saturday, January 21, 2017

No Country for Old Men (2007) **

I had heard that “No Country for Old Men” was bleak and violent, but it also got a lot of critical praise. I love me some Coen brothers, so I had to give the movie a shot. The messed up thing is, the movie actually fools you for a while, making you think it is a really awesome crime thriller. You wind up really invested in some of the characters before the film totally pulls the rug out from under you.

Josh Brolin plays Llewelyn Moss, a guy who is out hunting when he stumbles across the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong. He finds a bunch of dead and dying men, a truck full of drugs, and a satchel of cash. Llewelyn makes off with the cash, but winds up with a crew of unsavories on his trail, including the creepy Anton Chigur (Javier Bardem). The relentless Chigur carries a pneumatic bolt gun, and sometimes decides whether or not to kill someone with it by flipping a coin. Meanwhile, Sheriff Ed Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) tries to find Llewelyn before Chigur does.

The first two thirds of “No Country for Old Men” is outstanding. Besides beautiful photography of the west Texas landscape, the film is chock full of tight performances. Llewelyn, it turns out, is a lot smarter and tougher than anyone would have guessed, and you start to believe that he may be a match for Anton Chigur.

Then the movie gets needlessly depressing, and you wind up wondering why you invested two hours in it. You know, coming in, that a Coen brothers movie is going to be violent, and that people are going to die. What I didn't expect was the utter bleakness, the nihilism of the conclusion. Rarely have I seen a movie expend so much effort to make me like a character, only to discard them so perfunctorily. Ultimately, this is a crappy story told by two very talented filmmakers. Ethan and Joel Coen have made some of my favorite movies, including “Miller's Crossing” and “The Big Lebowski”, but they really screwed us over on this one.

2 stars out of 5

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