There are some local critics that hate every movie that comes out, yet every Coen brothers film gets 4 stars. Sure, Ethan and Joel are amazing writer/directors, but guess what? The Man Who Wasn’t There and Intolerable Cruelty were awful films. The Ladykillers with Tom Hanks was okay, but disappointing. And that’s how I feel about this movie, yet it’s getting such early buzz from other critics. I’m guessing I’ll be alone on this.
Since I didn’t read the novel by Cormac McCarthy, I’m only rating this based on what we see on the screen. Yet McCarthy has done a few interviews were he praises the Coens for staying faithful to his book. Most authors are disappointed by the film versions for so many reasons. I just finished reading William Goldman’s book about being a screenwriter, and he talked about how when he adapted Misery for the screen, Stephen King mentioned not being happy with any film version of his books.
This movie is going to make America well aware of who Javier Bardem is. When you play a great villain, you end up with a nice career in Hollywood (remember what Hannibal Lectur did for Anthony Hopkin’s career?).
I did laugh when I read Roger Ebert’s review. He thought it was unrealistic that Bardem carried an air compressor/cattle gun as a weapon, since it surely weighs a lot. I loved that as a weapon. It showed just how strong he must be to lug that thing around, and we see how useful it can be for knocking locks out of doors. If I were Ebert, I would’ve complained more about his goofy haircut. Perhaps the first person Anton Chigurn should’ve killed was his barber. But I digress.
I thought it was a great touch that Tommy Lee Jones, as Sheriff Bell – wasn’t like his tough as nails cop in The Fugative. Here he’s showing his age, and he isn’t afraid to admit he’s afraid. There’s one scene when he searches a hotel for Chigurn, and you get the feeling he’s hoping he won’t find him there.
Josh Brolin has the perfect look for his role. He stumbles across a drug deal gone bad. There are dead Mexicans in trucks, and he finds a suitcase filled with money. He takes it, goes back to his mobile home, and seems thrilled by what he found. Yet he can’t forget about the one guy in the truck that was still alive, and very thirsty. He fills up a jug with water to take back to the guy. Imagine his surprise when the guy isn’t there any more. He glances up the hill in the dawn sky, and sees another truck is sitting by his. It wasn’t there before. Now, I won’t ruin what happens next, but it may be the best chase scene of any kind, that I’ve seen in a decade.
Stephen Root shows up in a small role as a guy that hires Chigurn to get his suitcase of money, and Woody Harrelson is a mob guy that seems like a sweetheart after watching Chigurn in action.
I was completely absorbed watching the movie, but after two hours of it, I felt a little cheated. I didn’t care for (or really understand) the point of the long speech Tommy Lee gives about growing old and how things have changed. I also felt that a few of the characters did things I don’t see their characters doing.
One of those scenes involves Harrelson and Bardem meeting, and why Harrelson would’ve done what he did.
Another scene that didn’t make sense is the first time we see Bardem going into a gas station. The Coen’s are great at casting people that look like small town folk. The old guy looks like he probably really runs a five-and-dime in real life, and he’s asked to choose “heads or tails?” Bardem is going to kill him if he picks wrong after flipping the coin. Yet I’m not sure why he would. He has a job to do, and killing people unnecessarily would surely just bring cops snooping around, no?
I don’t mind when Bardem kills a female character at one point in the movie, because the logic behind why he did it makes sense.
Yet as I write this, I think about how many scenes in this movie blew me away. Not just a pit bulls head bobbing in and out of the water, but even subtle ones. For example, Bardem goes to question a woman that runs some mobile homes. He wants to know where a resident of a home works, and she snidely tells him she can’t give out that information. As his facial expressions show he’s getting increasingly impatient, we figure he’s about ready to shoot her. He then hears a toilet flush, and glances towards the other room. He thanks her and walks out. Perhaps some people won’t even catch what was going on at that moment, but it’s those small touches that the Coen’s often have in their movies I love. Fargo had lots of them, but I left that movie loving it.
Unfortunately, I didn’t love this movie. I think it’s the most overrated film of the year.
I’m giving it a B-.