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When you think of the Coen brothers, you think of crazy funny movies like Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou? But they also make some serious movies that are very dark and violent like Blood Simple and Miller's Crossing. Perhaps their best film so far, Fargo, which won them an Oscar for screenwriting and a nomination for Best Picture, was sort of a combination of these genres. It had a serious, dark violent plot but the characters were all a bit over the top, Coen style. Their new film, No Country for Old Men is straight from their serious genre. It is adapted from the novel by Cormac McCarthy. The screenplay follows the book almost word for word. No Country for Old Men is set mostly in rural Texas about 1980. A local man (Josh Brolin) is out hunting and happens on a drug deal gone bad. All the participants in the drug deal have shot each other amid the carnage, Brolin finds a briefcase full of cash, a lot of cash. He decides to keep the money and soon, the owners of the money have assigned a "cleaner" (Javier Bardem) to find Brolin. Brolin is a Vietnam vet and pretty smart so he tries to fall off the radar for a while and sends his wife (Kelly MacDonald) away to hide at her mother's. But this is no ordinary "cleaner". Even Harvey Keitel would be scared of this guy. Bardem is a sociopath equipped with a really bad haircut and a device used to cattle at the abattoir and he never, ever gives up. he's very efficient. He kills nearly everyone who crosses his path in this movie which includes most of the major characters. But I won't spoil it for you by telling which ones. On Bardem's trail are the local sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) and his deputy (Garret Dillahunt). Bardem is so out of control that even his drug dealing bosses have dispatched someone (Woody Harrelson) to get rid of him.
No Country for Old Men is not a movie for the squeamish. There is a lot of graphic violence, mostly involving not only people, but also a couple of dogs, getting shot and bleeding all over the place.
No Country for Old Men will keep your attention. You won't nod off while watching it. But you may have to shield your eyes during some of the goriest stuff. It's intense. The plot is very good although there's a couple of scenes that didn't make sense to me. With the exception of Javier Bardem's haircut, there's not much indication that this is a Coen movie. Besides laying off the weird characters, the Coen brothers aren't using their usual group of actors in this film either, not even Frances McDormand. But the cast, led by Tommy Lee Jones, is very strong. Jones is so good, so effortless in his acting that he makes it look too easy. The only problem in No Country for Old Men is that he isn't on screen enough. But he is the anchor for the movie. The action is seen through his eyes and the title refers to the fact that his character is about to retire. The two people who get the most screen time are Bardem and Brolin. Brolin has been around showbiz all his life. He is James Brolin's son and he's married to Diane Lane. But he just seems to be coming into his own as an actor. He is very good here and has a much better, more well rounded character here than in American Gangster. Bardem is good too but he just has to scare you with his single-minded murderous mania. Woody Harrelson has a nice but rather small part. I won't say why. And Kelly MacDonald (Trainspotting, Gosford Park) trades her Glaswegian accent for a Texas twang as Brolin's wife. She's good too.
The Coen brothers really know how to make a movie. No Country for Old Men is intense and well paced. And it is relentless. Bardem reminds me of Schwarzenegger in The Terminator but with a much worse haircut. You keep thinking that someone will be able to kill him or at least to escape him but he just keeps on coming. It's scary.