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"No Country For Old Men"
Miramax Films
Javier Bardem plays the ultra-brutal killer Anton Chirgurh in "No Country For Old Men."
By Film critic
msnbc.com contributor
updated 11/6/2007 4:42:25 PM ET 2007-11-06T21:42:25
REVIEW

For more than 20 years, Joel and Ethan Coen have been making maddeningly clever films that, depending on your opinion, are either brilliant pieces of cinema or represent the hermetically sealed worldview of two people who seem to have experienced life only through other movies.

Going into a Coen brothers movie, you know you’re going to get a spin on venerable film genres, hayseed characters with a love of florid speech (generally with some brand of hick accent), and a fairly convoluted plot that may or may not come to a satisfactory climax.

And if you thought that having a Cormac McCarthy novel for source material would change that, forget it.

Returning to the bleak landscape of their breakout hit “Blood Simple,” the Coens spin a Texas tale of murder and betrayal — it’s just too bad that the film offers incident but few motivations, and is loaded with good performances by actors who’ve barely been given characters to play.

The closest thing the movie gives us to a three-dimensional human being is Tommy Lee Jones’ Sheriff Bell, a grizzled lawman who thought he’d seen the worst humanity had to offer. That was before killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem, sporting a demonic “Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” pageboy hairdo) hit town. Chigurh’s arrival has to do with a drug deal gone bad (as they tend to in movies), resulting in hunter Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finding a huge cache of money.

And that’s pretty much all you need to know — money, murder, leaving town, hiding, chasing, killing, blah blah blah. Do the Coens direct this sort of thing with a maximum of artistry? Absolutely. Are Bardem and Brolin (and the rest of the cast) fun to watch? Most certainly. Could you take away their character names and just call them Crazed Assassin and Guy Who Finds Money, for all the depth the movie gives them? Well, yes.

Video: The actors of ‘No Country for Old Men’ Granted, the Coens are a specific taste — for everyone who finds their movies insufferably smart-alecky, there’s someone else who can recite every single line from “The Big Lebowski.” If you’re a Coen fan, you’ll enjoy “No Country for Old Men” as one of their best.

There’s a riveting sequence involving Brolin, the loot and two motel rooms that couldn’t be more perfectly edited. And despite his character having no shading, backstory or depth — or heck, maybe because of that — Bardem’s Chigurh makes for one of the screen’s eeriest psychopaths since Hannibal Lecter.

“No Country for Old Men” is the kind of film that will only cement the opinion you already have about its uniquely eccentric makers. Approach the ticket booth accordingly.

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  1. Coen operated

    Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, known together professionally as the Coen brothers, are American filmmakers who for more than 20 years have written and directed numerous successful films, ranging from screwball comedies to hardboiled thrillers to movies where genres blur together. The brothers write, direct and produce their films jointly, although until recently Joel received sole credit for directing and Ethan for producing. (Focus Features) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. 'True Grit' (2010)

    The Coen brothers have adapted the legendary Western, which won star John Wayne the best actor Oscar for a 1969 film version. Jeff Bridges takes on Wayne's role, with Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin also starring. Ethan Coen says the new movie will be funnier and more true to the 1968 novel. (Paramount Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. 'A Serious Man' (2009)

    A black comedy set in 1967 and centered on Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), a Midwestern professor who watches his life unravel when his wife prepares to leave him because his inept brother won't move out of the house. (Focus Features) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. 'Burn After Reading' (2008)

    A disk containing the memoirs of a CIA agent (John Malkovich) ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous gym employees (Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand) who attempt to sell it. The film also stars George Clooney and Tilda Swinton. (Focus Features) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. 'No Country For Old Men' (2007)

    Tommy Lee Jones plays Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in the film based on the book by Cormac McCarthy. The film tells the story of a man (Josh Brolin) who stumbles on a desert drug deal gone wrong and decides to make off with $2 million in cash. Mayhem, in the form of killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), follows quickly in his tracks. Bell can only look on and watch the slaughter. The film won four Academy Awards including Best Picture. (Miramax) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. 'The Ladykillers' (2004)

    The Coens directed a remake of this 1955 comedy about a southern professor (Tom Hanks) who puts together a ragtag group of thieves (including Marlon Wayans, left, and J.K. Simmons) to rob a casino. They rent a room in an old woman's (Irma P. Hall) house, but when she figures out what's going on, they're forced to kill her. (Touchstone Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. 'Intolerable Cruelty' (2003)

    A charming divorce attorney (George Clooney) manages to outwit the gold-digging wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) of one of his clients (Edward Herrmann), leaving her with nothing in the divorce settlement. But bent on revenge, she quickly marries an oil tycoon (Billy Bob Thornton). She and Clooney prepare to do battle once again, all the while fighting their attraction to each other. (Universal Studios) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. 'The Man Who Wasn’t There' (2001)

    Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) is a barber in Santa Rosa, Calif., in 1949. His seemingly humdrum life is interrupted when he realizes his wife (Frances McDormand) may be having an affair with her boss (James Gandolfini) and decides to blackmail him for the money -- to invest in a dry cleaning operation. But his plan goes totally wrong. (USA Films) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' (2000)

    Inspired by Homer's "The Odessey," and set in the deep south during the 1930s, the film follows three escaped convicts (George Clooney, John Tuturro, Tim Blake Nelson) as they search for treasure. Along the way, they encounter beautiful sirens, a one-eyed Bible salesman (John Goodman), the Ku Klux Klan and one angry wife (Holly Hunter). (Touchstone Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. 'The Big Lebowski' (1998)

    Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) is mistaken for a millionaire by two gangsters who urinate on his rug and try to get him to pay a debt. When the millionaire ends up hiring him to find his kidnapped wife Bunny (Tara Reid), the Dude blows off delivering the ransom in order to go bowling with his buddies (John Goodman, Steve Buscemi). The Dude's car is then stolen with the $1 million inside. (Gramercy Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. 'Fargo' (1996)

    Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) is desperate for money, so he hires two thugs (Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife (Kristin Rudrud), thinking he can get his father-in-law (Harve Presnell) to pay the ransom and keep the money. But the plan goes awry when a cop and two innocent people are killed on a Minnesota road. Pregnant sheriff Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) proves a persistent detective as she slowly gets to the bottom of the horrible crime. (Gramercy Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. 'The Hudsucker Proxy' (1994)

    When Waring Hudsucker (Charles Duning) commits suicide, his board of directors, led by Sydney Mussberger (Paul Newman) decides to hire a moron Norville Barnes (Tim Robins) to run Hudsucker Industries. A fast-talking reporter (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is assigned to do a piece on the new company president. Norville becomes an unlikely success when he invents the hula-hoop. (Warner Bros. via Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. 'Barton Fink' (1991)

    A struggling screenwriter (John Tuturro) unsuccessfully tries to write a wrestling movie while staying in the strange Hotel Earle. He goes to a William Faulkner-esque writer (John Mahoney) for advice and falls for his girl (Judy Davis). But when he wakes up with her dead body beside him, he turns to his neighbor, "common man" Charlie Meadows (John Goodman), who he slowly realizes may be a serial killer who beheads his victims. (20th Century Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. 'Miller's Crossing' (1990)

    Two warring gangs face off during the prohibition era. Leo O'Bannon (Albert Finney) controls the town, but finds his authority being challenged by a violent Italian gangster Johnny Casper (Jon Polito). Caught between these two, and playing them against each other, Tom Regan (Gabriel Bryne) gets caught in a bloody gang war. (20th Century Fox via Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. 'Raising Arizona' (1987)

    H.I. McDunnough (Nicolas Cage), an ex-con, and his wife Edwinna (Holly Hunter), an ex-cop, can't have a baby, so they decide to steal one of Nathan Arizona's quintuplets and raise the boy as their own. But things get complicated when a couple of H.I.'s ex-con friends (John Goodman, William Forsythe) show up, quickly followed by the bounty hunter Leonard Smalls (Randall 'Tex' Cobb). (Fox via Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. 'Blood Simple' (1984)

    In the Coen brother's first film, a Texas bar owner named Marty (Dan Hedaya) hires a private detective (M. Emmet Walsh) to kill his wife (Frances McDormand) and her lover Ray (John Getz), but things don't go as planned when Ray ends up confronting and killing Marty. (Circle Films via Everett Collection) Back to slideshow navigation
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