Wednesday, March 05, 2008


NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (crime thriller)
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, Woody Harrelson and Kelly MacDonald
Writer-Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen
Time: 120 mins
Rating: * * * 1/2 (Out of 4)

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? Yeah, what’s the big deal about “No Country For Old Men” that it should grab four major Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay)? I have to admit that it is a well-made movie – albeit with a rather disappointing ending – and, arguably, the best work of the Brothers Coen so far. But Best Movie of 2007??? I guess this either reflects on the yardstick used by the Academy members, or perhaps the Oscars ain’t no place for reviewers like yours truly…

WHAT’S IT ABOUT? Three men, actually. The first is welder Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) who finds US$2 million in cold hard cash at the scene of a drug deal gone bust while hunting in the Texas desert. He decides to keep the money but makes a tragic mistake of returning to the scene. The second is Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem, above), a hit man sent to recover the money from Moss. Chigurh, a humourless sociopath, is coldly efficient and sometimes brutal in disposing of anyone who gets in his way, including a cop. This brings us to Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) who puts his retirement on hold to crack the case. And oh yes, Woody Harrelson plays a cocky bounty hunter who is also looking for Chigurh.

HITS & MISSES: Basically, “No country For Old Men”, adapted from the novel by Cormac McCarthy, is a shoot-’em-up flick with its hit man as the main attraction (or character study). Chigurh is such a sadistic ‘lean, mean, killing machine’ that he often toys with his victims, offering them a toss of the coin chance for their lives. After watching his cold, calculated style of executions, especially with a cattle stun gun, even the sound of his voice sends shivers down our spine (which accounts for the Oscar vote for Bardem, who seems more of a lead than a supporting actor).

Brolin’s Moss, however, is easier to understand and empathise with, although it is extremely implausible (not to mention stupid) for a guy like him to risk everything by going back to the scene just to satisfy his conscience. Jones’ Sheriff Bell, the movie’s narrator, is the moral voice and commentator about how alienated the world has become for old men like him.

Joel and Ethan Coen, who jointly write the screenplay and direct, keep the pace taut and tight, emphasising every sound and visual for maximum tension and suspense. Just catch the cat-and-mouse game between Moss and Chigurh at the motel and you will see how well-constructed the sequences are. As a form of entertainment, however, this one will not make you go ‘wow’ at the end. Instead, you will be thinking ‘what the f…’ when the closing credits appear.

THE LOWDOWN: “No Country For Old Men” has not broken any new ground. It is as engaging and disturbing as “Pulp Fiction” and “Kill Bill” – but certainly not worthy of its Best Film Oscar.


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