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‘No Country’ for anybody else, either

Carly at the Movies column by Carl Larsen

Being somewhat long of tooth myself, I joined the holiday throngs to see “No Country for Old Men” with some caution.
Afterwards, I knew it was no country for anybody else, either.

It opens Friday at the Visulite in Staunton.

Based on a novel by ol’ Gloomy-Gus writer Cormac McCarthy, it’s all about this psychopathic killer loose in Texas. (So, what else is new?) And the critics are talking about how the guy who plays the psychopathic killer, Javier Bardem, is likely to get an Oscar nom – probably for Most Creative Deadly Weapon. (He kills people, dogs and doorknobs with a hydraulic punch-machine designed to dispatch cattle.)

In retrospect, I really like the movie. When it stops (there’s no real “ending,” it just kinda quits), everyone is either dead or vaguely discontented. Doesn’t exactly make you want to rush out and buy McCarthy’s other novels, even though he’s won a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize.

Tommie Lee Jones plays an elderly law officer (now there’s a stretch), and mostly goes around, looks at the piles of people and puppies massacred by the psychopathic killer, and makes folksy quips.

While the film, ostensibly, is supposed to be about the relationship of the hunter to the hunted, it’s mostly about how much fun it is to shoot people. Also, there are lots of extreme closeups of various cowboys self-medicating. (Gunshot wounds are so messy.)

The movie’s engine is: a trailer-park cowboy played by Josh Brolin finds a bunch of drugs and about $52 million when he spots a drug-deal-gone-wrong in the desert. For the next couple of hours, he’s followed by cheerful nutcase Bardem, who is pursued by Tommie Lee.

About a thousand murders later, the whole thing just stops.

It’s not as funny as most films written and directed by the Coen Brothers, and it’s just barely more understandable than their 1990 hunk of jibberjabber called “Miller’s Crossing.” But it does have the faint scent of “Fargo” about it, and is as dark as “Blood Simple.” I gotta see it again.

If you enjoy films by the Coen Brothers (I do) and relish lots of testosterone cowboy posing (I do) and kinda chuckle whilst everyone in sight gets blown to smithereens by quaint weaponry (I do), well, the,n this here action flick is a Must See. Just don’t expect anyone on screen to spell out What It All Means.

There are some fine little cameos to be seen by Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald and Barry Corbin. And as for Javier Bardem’s portrayal of our friendly neighborhood psychopathic killer, he’s like the second cousin of Kaiser Soeze (the master criminal in 1995’s “The Usual Suspect”) who you dasn’t doublecross or he’ll hunt down your wife and your kids and your parents and your friends and your third-grade teacher and kill ’em all. Bardem is a loose cannon, playing by his own goofy rules, and after he’s murdered a whole bunch of people, the Coens don’t even bother showing him offing anyone. He just shows up, and they cut to the next scene.

Depressing? Not really. Because you leave the theater happy to be living your own sad little life which seems suddenly brighter in comparison to the movie you’ve just seen.

Shucks, it’s almost a feel-good holiday film. (That is, if the Christmas Tree caught fire and everybody died.)


Carl Larsen is a regular contributor to The Augusta Free Press. Look for his At the Movies column on Mondays.

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