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   William Schmidt,       - Tiger Software's Creator
   (C) 2007 William Schmidt, Ph. D.  - All Rights Reserved. 

      Movie Review:

  "No Country for Old Men" 


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             to william_schmidt@hotmail.com


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      Movie Review:     "No Country for Old Men"  
122 minutes of Action/Drama
            2007: Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen
- (Can you say "Fargo?")

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          Javier Bardem - the psychopathic villain hired to retrieve the $2 million lost in the drug deal.
             Other Cast members
                  Josh Brolin - a welder, hunter, Viet Nam vet who happens across the money and decides to keep it.
                  Kelly MacDonald - his wife.  Passive and compliant.
                  Tommy Lee Jones - an utterly ineffectual older local Texas sheriff (He played the FBI lead in the Fugitive.)
                  Woody Harrelson - a second pursuer of the money, hired by the drug dealers' banker.

                   Critics give this an
A rating: 12 reviews.    7485 Yahoo users give this a B+ rating.

        This is a stunningly thought-provoking film.  It is so much better than other films I have seen
         recently, that it will probably be called a "
masterpiece".  The parched West Texas landscapes
         with their stark desolation and windswept silence are a fine back backdrop for this "cat and mouse"
         movie.  The cat is a professional killer hired by a drug cartel to get back its $2 million dollars
         after a drug deal goes awry.  The mouse is a tough Texas welder-Viet Nam Vet who takes the
         money after coming across the remnants of a gruesome shoot-out while hunting antelope.  
         The Texas sheriff is more an observer than a player.  He comments on the chase remind
         me of the chorus in a classic Greek tragedy. 
   "If you were Satan and you were settin around tryin to think up somethin that
                            would just bring the human race to its knees what you would probably come up with
                            is narcotics." 

         And he always arrives too late to avert each new shooting.  Asked if the stories he tells, for
         he is a third generation Texas lawman, are true, he says: "I can only say I guarantee they are

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                By all accounts, this movie has the most frightening and fascinating villain since
         Hannibal Lechter.  He is tall, pale (like a vampire) and slouches a little as he carries what
         we first think is a portable oxygen tank, but soon learn is a tank of compressed air which
         powers his cattle-stun-gun.  His is a smile with no warmth.  It is that of pure Evil relishing
         the Fate he is about to deliver a new victim.  His voice is bass, decisive and menacing.

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                In his unhurried relentlessness, he is Death, as in Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal.
         His pursuit cannot be stopped.    At first, he uses an electronic homing device to locate the
         trail of the money.  Then we see him cogitating malevolently his next pursuit, using the clues
         he finds when the "mouse" thinks she has made an escape.  He is Karma.  He turns the  hunter
         into the hunted.  His victims are at first wounded and made slow and vulnerable.  Like Fate, he
         is unpredictable.  At times, he seems eager to find a reason to kill.  But his weapon of choice
         is a "humane" cattle stun gun.   Its killing is instantaneous.  He is certifiably insane.  He gives
         his victims a chance to live if they will guess whether a coin he has just flipped is "heads" or
         "tails".  Unlike Hannibal, his bromides to  those he is about to murder are fuzzy and bizarre. 
         The villain's Dutch bowl haircut makes him standout.  His eyes refuse to blink.  But, for all
         the killing, the suspense was somewhat wanting; such is the sense of inevitability that the
         villain's pursuit had...  But we keep hoping, he will be dispatched.  Horror films all end
         happily, we keep telling ourselves.

                I found the ending way too sudden and unexplained.  It was sped through at a pace
          twenty times faster than the rest of the film.  It was as though the film's budget would not
          allow the film to run an extra ten minutes longer to make sense of it all.  A preachy
          story by the Sheriff lamenting his powerlessness in the face of the new Greed, Drugs
          and Callousness left too much unsaid.  The ending was as arbitrary as much of the
          villain's decision-making to kill or not to kill.  Maybe, that is the film's message.  Realistically,
          much as we might try, things are often beyond our control and we cannot shape or control
          our fate.  The "hero" - the hunter - said he wanted to take the fight to the villain.  But he never
          even got started in that.

                Much as it stopped me cold and made me think, I would not see the film again.  I speak and
          understand "Texas-ese"   pretty well,  The drawl was no problem.  The characters just had
          limited appeal.  The best, by far, was the welder-hunter who takes the two million dollars away
          from a thirsty, dying Mexican drug dealer.  He is independent.  He is a proud, tough realist.   

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               The Mexican had been badly shot when the weld-hunter finds him.  He desperately asks 
          for "agua".    The welder-hunter coldly tells the wounded drug dealer that he has no water.
          And instead asks him where the "ultima hombre" is, the last one left standing in the battle. 
          Not getting a reply, the welder-hunter then takes the money, goes home, stashes it, then tells
          his wife not to ask any questions about where he's been.  Many hours later while preparing to
          go to bed, he finally remembers the wounded Mexican who wanted a little water.  Still, we
          have sympathy for him, because he does go back with water in the middle of the night.
          And that is when his troubles begin.
          wpe2E.jpg (16533 bytes)  I can certainly imagine what I might do if I were to find so
          much money.   I can understand his desire to turn his trailer-home life around.  I can appreciate
          that he was a Viet Nam vet who had been trained to kill and improvise.  I admired his courage. 
          But I would have given more credit to his pursuer and taken the two million and gone to Rio,
          or some such place, without waiting to see if I was being pursued.  We are given no reason
          to understand why he chose not to do this.  (And that would have taken me beyond the
          range of the electronic devise hidden away in the bag of money.  Another thing, I would
          have found a new container for the money.  Leaving it in the same carrying case, just
          made it easier to spot. But then, that would have changed the story too much.)

                 As it was, the characters were simply pawns in a contest of survival against a Fate
          which was sealed when the drug money was taken home by the hunter about to become
          the hunted,  The movie, set in the early 1980s, is saying that we have entered a new era. 
          This is "no country for men".  Instead Drugs, Greed and Ruthlessness have won out.
          Of interest, was how differently each faced his immediate demise. 

                Before I end, I want to say there were a few moments of levity and humor to admire.  The
           welder comes back into a store in which he bought a pair of boots.  He is wearing little else
           except a hospital robe.   The shop keeper ignores his bloody bandages and nearly naked
           appearance, and asks: "How are those boots I sold you working out?"  (Shades of
           "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?") 

                   Coming across another grisly murder scene, the sherrif's deputy says: "It's a mess,
           ain;t it, sherrif."   The sherrif replies: "If it ain't, it'll do till a mess gets here."

                   Darker, the welder tells his wife: "If I don’t come back, tell my mother I love her.” His wife 
           announces the news: “Your mother’s dead.” He answers: "Then I’ll tell her myself.”

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