|to watch the Coen brothers exercising their dark side, with a bleak and violent but thoroughly gripping modern-day western
|Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
|Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Kelly Macdonald, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson
|18th January 2008
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
While out hunting in the Texas desert, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles across a battered flat-bed truck, piled high with heroin, with a handful of dead men lying around it.
Investigating further, he follows a trail of blood and finds another man, dead against a tree, with a briefcase of cash at his feet. With no-one else around, Llewelyn walks off with two million dollars in one hundred dollar bills.
The owner of the cash isn’t the kind of person to chase this up himself – he sends the ruthless Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), perhaps the most laid back killer in modern movie history. Without breaking sweat – without hardly even breathing – he glides across the country like wraith, armed with nothing but a cattle-gun and the gas cylinder that powers it.
Hot on the trail of death is the local lawman Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) and in a chase of his own, bounty hunter Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) isn’t far behind.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
There are two kinds of Coen Brothers film, and from the moment Chigurh escapes the clutches of the law in the opening scene, it’s clear that this isn’t the kind that has a happy ending.
It’s one of the darkest, bleakest, modern-day (well, 1980s) western you’re likely to see, with very few light touches.
The desolate landscapes serve to enhance the emotional emptiness of the melancholic characters – Moss is happily married (to Scotland’s Kelly Macdonald), but that doesn’t make him happy – in fact the only character who seems to be content with his lot is the murderous Chigurh, for whom killing is literally all in a day’s work.
The only humour comes from Chigurh’s shockingly calculated attitude towards his work – as he knocks off his victims one by one, with ever increasing job satisfaction; even when things don’t go according to his plan, his cool professionalism still overcomes all obstacles.
The film takes you on a gripping journey, as you root for the everyman prey over his ruthless hunters as the happiness that already eludes him seems to slip even further away.
The film is a little unfocused though, not quite sure whether its central character is Moss, Chigurh or Bell, shifting listlessly between them. And the film is lacking in emotion…while you feel nervous or sorry for some of the characters…you never share their pain…emotionally, or otherwise.
And regardless of it’s consummate production values on all levels, it’s not a film that leaves you in any way feeling glad you saw it – unless you get pleasure from admiring the handiwork of over a callous, brutal hitman with a black hole where his heart should be – and a typically Coen-brothers eccentric anachronistic hairstyle.