No Country for Old Men
has more blood than the Harelip's pillow the morning after unemployment
checks are issued. This movie is as gruesome and violent as
my cousin's 14th birthday party, when my uncle gave him a pellet
gun, and my aunt screamed at him that he was adopted and unloved.
This is also every bit as fucking good, and you don't have to
hide behind the sofa to avoid getting shot in the ass.
The movie is based on a Cormac McCarthy novel,
who has made a pretty damn good living writing neowesterns about
big open spaces and heartless bastards who terrorize them. Well,
he has ever since his little-known debut novel, The Pretty Pony
Princess' Kissing Party. But even that one ends up with 37 dead
horses, even if they are pink and have rainbow manes.
In No Country for Old Men, a man (Josh
Brolin) hunting pronghorn antelope near the Rio Grande stumbles
upon the scene of a clusterfuck of a drug deal. Four trucks,
everyone but one man dead. And that guy's hanging on to life
as loosely as Worm does to his claims he is a wrongly-convicted
sex offender. The dope is still at the scene, but the money's
gone. Brolin follows a trail across the dry landscape to a dead
Mexican who bled to death after taking the two million bucks.
After Brolin takes the dough back to his trailer-home,
his conscience hits him. He is generally a decent, honest guy.
That's established when he picks up the shells after firing
his rifle at the antelope. Now he is so consumed with guilt
over not helping the one near-dead man at the clusterfuck that
he returns with a jug of water for him. That's when the bad
guys show up, find him and he has his first narrow escape.
The problem is that now Javier Bardem knows
who he is, and Bardem is one seriously bad ass. I don't mean
bad ass in the sense of one full of chili and artichokes. I
mean bad ass in the sense of humorless, remorseless, amoral
killer. He doesn't flinch at killing a gas station attendant
for kicks. His every scene is drenched in dread because you
have no idea who he'll kill or how much blood will pool. He
carries a high-pressure air tank and a pneumatic gun that shoots
a rod out. He puts that through the forehead of his victims
and also for blowing out stubborn doorlocks.
No matter where Brolin goes, Bardem isn't far
behind, almost like a ghost, or maybe a conscience, or may be
a collective black cloud over our society. Brolin tries to move
his newfound wealth across the state and Bardem is always right
behind him. When Brolin shacks up in a motel, the bastard shows
up in the night and kills three men. When Brolin checks into
another hotel in another city, Bardem is at his door, and puts
a towel at the bottom so Brolin can't tell when someone is outside.
What's most shocking about No Country for
Old Men is that Brolin gets exactly what's coming to him
for getting in over his head with some fucked up bad guys. Now
this is where someone is going to bitch that I "spoiled" the
story. First, boo-fucking-hoo. If your life is so empty that
having a plot point revealed to you ruins your day, go fuck
yourself. Then go eat a whole box of Girl Scout cookies by yourself;
that'll make you feel better. Second, it's not the point of
the movie, so if you're all worked up about it, then you missed
the bigger fucking picture.
Of course, some asshole is still going to write
to me and be all uppity and self-righteous. That's because some
people are like that. And as I said, they can go fuck themselves.
When Brolin dies, it throws a huge monkey wrench
into the machinery. All the sudden, the movie goes from being
a pretty fucking good cat-and-mouse story with a seriously scary
villain, to something way more meditative and profound. Really,
Javier Bardem's omniscient and omnipresent bad guy is as terrifying
as Mrs. Filthy was the time she ate that warm shellfish. Bardem's
not quite as gassy or swollen, but he kills more people. So,
it's a pretty equal tradeoff.
Speaking of tradeoffs, Tommy Lee Jones plays
the same fucking taciturn sheriff he always plays. The only
difference is that he seems a bit more disinterested in the
bad guy this time. He goes through the motions, follows along,
but he's never ahead of the criminals and he makes a pretty
concerted effort to stay out of the way. He retires with Bardem
still loose and blowing big holes through foreheads. He made
a conscientious choice to not get involved and it's gonna haunt
him the rest of his life.
Anyway, after Brolin dies, there's still another
half-hour of movie and it gives you time to think about what
Bardem's character represents, and what the title of the movie
actually means. The inference is that there is evil out there
that can't be stopped and is omnipresent. Some may disagree
with that, but they usually haven't met the Harelip.
No Country for Old Men looks pretty fucking
great. It captures how brown, flat and sad most of Texas is
almost as well as Win Wenders' Paris, Texas. It's a product
of the Coen Brothers, who really have made a lot of loosey,
goosey mediocre movies of late. But this one is damn tight and
focused, even though it's languid and built on men who speak
little. There is economy in every landscape and a real sense
of the outlaw sensibility of the hillbillies living there.
I already said it, but it's worth repeating:
Bardem is fucking scary as shit. He makes his scenes uncomfortable
and tense before he says a word. And he shows how unconflicted
he is by murder through small actions, like a coin-flip, or
the way he checks his boots for blood after leaving a house.
It's a pretty fucking good movie. But anyone
who spends any time in Olde Town Arvada is used to that. Four
Fingers for No Country for Old Men.