No Country for Old Men

Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin. Directed by Joel Coen

Running Time: 121 minutes
Rated: Rated MA15+ (Strong violence).

The Coen Brothers are back to their idiosyncratic world, this time with a story based on a novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Cormac McCarthy. Intolerable Cruelty was a soufflé and the remake of The Ladykillers was misguided.

This time the setting is 1980. The initial voiceover of a weary sheriff tells us that this is a new west. It is more lawless and deadly than the old days of sheriffs and bad guys: Vietnam has scarred American consciousness and the gangster crime dramas of the past (and of the cities) are now played out in the Texas desert.

With plenty of their dry, wry humour and off-kilter characters, even in the smallest roles of clerks and kids, this is a chase thriller with a high body count as well as a frustrated attempt to administer law and order in a decent way. The Coens and McCarthy are telling us How the West was Lost.

Tommy Lee Jones has become something of a rugged icon of Texas. Here he is the decent one, the old-time sheriff who is a man of common-sense, practical action and useful intuitions.

Javier Bardem (who was raving mad in a similar kind of role in Perdita Durango) is a memorable killer (if one wants to remember screen killers). Josh Brolin is surprisingly persuasive as the good man who illustrates the biblical maxim that the love of money is the root of all evil.

Philosophical about good and evil, with a number of yarns rolled in, this is the Coens reworking both crime and the west.

ParamountOut December 26

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

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