Monday, April 7, 2008

No Country For Me

Last night I fired up the PS3 and popped in The Coen Brothers award winning No Country For Old Men. This was a much anticipated film in my house, and one we thought we would regret not seeing in the theaters. Boy, was I wrong.
Now maybe it's me. Maybe too many grindhouse flicks and a preference for Zombie Strippers have soured my cinematic pallet beyond repair, but this won best picture?...really?
Before you start hating, I liked the film enough. The camera work is impressive, and there are some really great performances. Javier Badem as Anton Chigurh brought the chill with him, but if you want to see a truly scary sociopath curl up with Michael Rooker in 1986' Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and tell me you won't keep a closer eye on the cable guy next time he comes over.
Tommy Lee Jones as the Sheriff, and Josh Brolin as the any man who bit off more than he can chew were also great, though Tommy Lee seemed to be confused at the waste of his bad-assery at times.
Speaking of wasting performances. Two supporting characters who are portrayed by Woody Harrelson (I don't need to tell you what he's been in) and Garret Dillahunt, possibly one of the finer character actors today, (Deadwood, 4400, Sarah Conner Chronicles) are largely wasted. Harrelson is little more than a plot contrivance, and you feel his role was stunt casting at best. This is like casting Ben Foster (30 Days of Night, 3:10 to Yuma, Alpha Dog) for a walk on in The Hills.
I know there are people out there who think the Coen Brothers can do no wrong, but I honestly haven't been into anything they've done since Fargo, and yes that includes The Big Lebowski, a film I still haven't been able to sit through.
It felt to me like they tried to out grind Tarantino, but without the same snappy dialogue and no real passion for the violence they tried to throw in each scene, except of course where it would really matter. Two crucial confrontations that the audience would truly care about occur off camera, why hold back here when the whole movie is a string of bloody confrontations?
Maybe that was the idea, in a world inured to violence they wanted it to be very matter of fact, of course we may never know since there was no damn commentary on the disc! C'mon, directors as important as everyone tells the Coen Brothers they are can't throw a commentary track down to tell people what they were thinking? Lazy and inexcusable, I have no other words for it.
So, if you liked Fargo, but always wondered how a desert setting would change the movie, then No Country is for you. I may not think it's picture of the year material (in all fairness I was also disappointed by The Matrix) but it is definitely worth the rental. As a slice of (very violent) life, the film works, but if you're expecting a pay off you may be in for a let down. If anything the film limps through the last twenty minutes as if it had buckshot in the leg.

No Country For Old Men is available on DVD and Blu Ray.
The novel by Cormac McCarthy is available in paperback


Anonymous said...

I agree. We watched it last week and I did like it, but was also thinking the Academy is a bit hasty with it's choices. With all the hype, I was expecting more as well. Then again, now that we saw "We own the night" I guess the choices are limited as to who is the 'Best'. I fell asleep 3 times during last night's movie rental and my husband nudged me and asked if I wanted to turn it off, should have... I am consistantly surprised by the Academy and reviewers...are they all seeing other versions of these movies, or are my standards going up? Maybe I'm getting more critical each decade.

Charlie said...

I actually thought I was missing something so I tooled around other reviews, and while the critics gushed, a lot of reader comments were very negative. At least we're not the only ones. So, should I skip "We Own The Night"?

Anonymous said...

Oh god yes....We own the night was awful. Joaquin Phoenix goes from havinga totally outgoing, ball-busting personality to a meek, muttering victim. Mark Wahlberg (who, to me, would look good wearing a Burger King uniform)was the same character as in 'The Departed'....hard-ass cop, even Duvall fell flat and Eva Mendes, well, she is eye candy for the guys anyway, so I guess she accomplishes that. I found myself saying "oh please" so many times. 3:10 to Yuma was far better and I'm not a Western fan, but at least I was into it....don't waste your money or time...
I did get 'Gone, baby, gone' and 'Stardust'from Netflix so I have a choice tonight..