Review: No Country for Old Men Will Be Loved by Fans of Fargo

If somebody asked me, "Is No Country for Old Men, the new Coen Brothers movie, worth seeing?" I would first ask them, "Did you like Fargo?" before offering my answer. Now, if you didn’t like Fargo... well, you’re an idiot. I wish there was some other way to put it, but there’s not. Stop reading. Go play in traffic. However, if you’re not some sort of moronic, hairless monkey and you did like Fargo, then, to answer your question, I’d say, "Hells yeah! No Country for Old Men is definitely worth seeing."

"But why?" you might then ask. "After all, the Coen Brothers’ last two movies stunk like putrid milk."

Here, I’d have to agree with you. 2004’s Ladykillers, one of the lousy movies that populated the five-year winter Tom Hanks languished in between Catch Me If You Can and this year’s Charlie Wilson’s War, was funny for all the wrong reasons and 2003’s Intolerable Cruelty enjoys the privilege of being pretty much the only unredeemable movie George Clooney has made since The Peacemaker (though I guess his bit part in Welcome to Collinwood counts, too). It takes a lot to make Hanks and Clooney suck like, say, a Nicolas Cage or Matthew McConaughey, but the Coen Brothers managed it.

"So why should I see No Country for Old Men then? Woody Harrelson has a part in it, and he hasn’t been in anything good in almost a decade."

Well, you’re right about Woody. He’s kind of a waste of talent these days, but don’t hold that against No Country.

"So what’s it about?"

Glad you asked. It’s a pretty solid adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel and follows three characters played by Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin. This is how they’re credited on the poster, even though Brolin’s Llewelyn Moss drives the story and, as far as I’m concerned, qualifies as the heart of it. Moss is an ex-vet turned working stiff with a penchant for tracking the person who (after stumbling upon a drug deal gone bad) has found $2 million in Mexican drug money. Bardem, the second lead, plays a sort of avatar of fate who loves making decisions with the help of a coin. As Chigurh, he’s hired to hunt down Brolin and get back the money in question.

Lastly, curmudgeonly Jones plays the Frances McDormand type character, I suppose you’d say, as Ed Tom Bell, the deadpan sheriff who’s disgusted by the violence consuming his part of the country. It's his job to find Moss and Chigurh and, I guess, to clarify the thematic elements that the Moss-versus-Chirguh part of the story present. Ultimately, this is the movie’s weakest aspect: Bell is amusing enough, especially with his practical-man persona, but he never moves the story forward, even though when the movie wraps up, it’s his minor character’s realization about the randomness and natural violence of the world that’s supposed to resonate with us. We just aren’t given enough reason to care about him, though.

So, still wondering if you should check out No Country for Old Men? Well, here are a few more reasons in a nutshell, mi amigo: there is a revelatory performance by Brolin, plenty of Coens' grade-dark humor and gory violence, and, to top it all off, some of the tensest cat-and-mouse action sequences edited on film in several years. Yeah, yeah, the ending might trip a bit on its own thematic artfulness, but it doesn’t take away from everything that leads up to it. Trust me.

Grade: A-