Holy shit, can those Hollywood assholes be
a sanctimonious bunch. Those jackasses think we pay for movies
just to hear them tell us how fucking important and profound they
are. Maybe it's more than just Hollywood types, but I don't ever
hear my garbageman talking about freeing Tibet nearly as much
as those pricks in LA do. Besides, even if the trashman pontificated,
he'd still pick up my trash.
the trashman's job. And Hollywood's job is to entertain. Any speechifying,
pontificating and pomposity should be done on their own God damn
time, or at least done subtly while achieving the first mission.
But these assholes think we actually give a shit what they think
so much they don't even have to be clever about saying it. The
Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is pure unentertainment;
a pseudo-gritty vanity project that says little and entertains
even less. It sure as fuck ain't worth $9.25 to watch.
a movie's title tells you it's gonna be more full of itself than
one of those contortionists who can suck his own dick. The
Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is just that. Not the
contortionist; that would have been more entertaining. I mean
the movie. It stinks of vanity the way an 82-year-old lady does
of cheap perfume and soggy diaper. The meager, simplistic commentary
on racism, classism and immigration policy along our Mexican border
is indicative of shallow thinking, but even that shit gets steamrolled
by Jones's fancy-ass flashbacks, and his obsession with showing
us how gritty and God damn profound he can be. The derivative
Peckinpah gore, the out-of-place non-sequitur comedy, and the
desperate attempt to achieve John Huston-like spare desperation
are what I remember most. Besides being a lame political commentary,
Three Burials is a lame, overreaching directorial debut.
Jones plays a border rancher named Pete who we never learn much
about beyond that he's the tough, quiet type with a hard-wired
moral compass. He's "gruff" and "good" and "honest" and that's
about it; he's a Western anti-hero typecast. Jones takes in a
very Mexican cowboy (Julio Cedillo) who crosses the border illegally,
and becomes deep friends with him over their mutual love for looking
out over Big Bend National Park and talking about horses. Cedillo
is also never fully developed other than that he's the pure goodness
that Hollywood sees in all impoverished, hard-working people.
innocently tending his goats, Cedillo is killed by a hot-headed,
one-dimensionally shallow border patrolman (Barry Pepper) whose
boss covers it up with help from the local corrupt (of course)
sheriff. When Jones finds out who killed his friend, he kidnaps
Pepper and forces him to retrieve Cedillo from the poorman's grave
the sheriff cold-bloodedly buried him in. Jones then forces Pepper
to join him in riding their horses into Mexico to return the Mexican's
body to his hometown.
the way, they encounter quaint and pointless vignettes like Levon
Helms as an old man alone in the wilderness who asks them to kill
him. It doesn't tie into the story, and the scene is forced, but
it's there because JOnes is trying to imitate Peckinpah and other
better filmmakers. Those filmmakers, by the way, would have cut
that crap out because they knew it was too corny.
Jones's quest to make The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
into a big, powerful movie instead of something entertaining,
he forgets that it's basically sort of a dumb story about a man
who made a promise to a friend and now is bound to carry it out.
The subplots about an impotent sheriff, about Pepper's hot wife,
and about a slutty waitress are all left high and dry. None of
them mean much to the story, but they are dragged along like a
carcass behind a pickup until they shred apart and vanish without
closure or any sort of point. The only cool thing is that the
hot wife (January Johnson) smokes Mistys or Virginia Slims. One
of them long, skinny cigarettes that people in the 70s thought
also confuses gore and grit for truthfulness. The movie lingers
on the corpse of Cedillo decaying in scene after scene until it
becomes a tired joke. The puffy, black body gets attacked by ants
and Jones lights it on fire. Jones tries to comb its hair and
it falls out in chunks. Pepper is coated in layers of mud and
blood as the movie proceeds, and his tan inconsistently changes
from scene to scene. Jones does do a good job of capturing the
ruggedness of Big Bend National Park in Texas, though. He never
shows us a javelina, but the canyons, cactus and sage brush get
plenty of attention,.
worst thing about The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
getting creative-writing-class clever with his message. Maybe
he's afraid that we don't get it if he isn't obvious, but that's
too fucking bad. Most of us don't come to the movies for sermonizing.
Jones is trying to tell us all first that Mexicans are human and
should be treated humanely. That along our borders the immigrants
are treated unfairly and with little respect. The people who see
artsy-fartsy shit like this are exactly the kind of people who
already have some pompous bumper sticker on their car to tell
people that they are just as sensitive and in-tune as Jones. And
for the same reasons (I'll give you hint, it ultimately has nothing
to do with the Mexicans). He makes his point through clumsy devices
like Pepper clocking a Mexican girl across the nose early on and
then her being the only girl in Mexico that can save him from
a rattlesnake bite. Of course, she does, see, because in Jones's
world the poor Mexicans are pure goodness and the whiteys are
pisses me off. If Jones respects our South-of-the-border friends
so much, why the fuck are they all so one-dimensional? What point
is made by reducing people to such shallow stereotypes? If Jones
cared about them as much as he cares about how he's perceived
by audiences, he'd show that all people are complex. We are all
capable of both donating time to a, say, Arvada Lutheran church
food drive, and capable of pocketing a small bottle of, say, whiskey,
or a pack of powdered Hostess Donettes that he finds in the bins.
How the fuck does Jones think he can generate empathy for a group
of people when he can't even portray them as human?
Fingers for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.
The next time I get an inkling to see Tommy Lee Jones masturbate
I'll just Google it because I'm sure there's a more genuine version
of his wank sessions than this available online for free.
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