Tuesday, January 19, 2010

“No Country for Old Men” – The unfunny “Fargo.”

There’s one word that can adequately sum up every Coen brothers movie you have ever seen. No, not funny, or witty, or entertaining… it’s killing. They seem not to know how to make a decent film without large numbers of people being killed. In fact, I think Javier Bardem is still killing people as we speak.

Ok, I haven’t seen all of their movies, so maybe I’m being a little unfair with my categorization. It’s only the two that got the most Academy Award nominations (“Fargo” and “No Country”) that contain a large amount of killing, which happen to be the ones that everybody raves about. I have seen seven of their movies and the only one I liked was “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” I would categorize the rest of them as boring and pointless, which includes “Fargo.” Hold on a second…Javier, please stop killing people.

I honestly do not understand why people like the Coen brothers’ movies so much. Everyone raves about how good they are, but can’t really explain their reasons. I understand that people have different tastes, but this has become an odd phenomenon to me. Great example: “The Big Lebowski.” I was so bored by that movie that I fell asleep, and I don’t…Javier, put that down…fall asleep during movies. Not surprisingly (at least to me) I had to fight to stay awake during “No Country.”

As I’ve said countless times before, plot is the most important component of a movie for me. The fact that it was practically nonexistent in “No Country” is probably why I was nearly in a coma while watching it. This movie is about a crazy guy (Bardem) who is killing people, another guy (Josh Brolin) who finds some drug money and is being hunted by the crazy guy, and a cop (Tommy Lee Jones) who is cleaning up the mess. The problem is that the killings serve no purpose and they comprise seventy-five percent of the movie. The best evidence of this is the way Josh Brolin meets his end. After spending the entire movie developing the chase and showing us the details of every other death, he is found dead in a hotel room and we don’t even get to see it. What the fuck is that?

The most surprising thing about the film is that everyone seems to have missed that it is just a reincarnation of “Fargo.” Brolin is William H. Macy; they both are trying to figure out a way to have more money and things continually get worse until they die. Jones is Francis McDormand; they are both sheriffs in small towns, are seventeen steps behind the killings and quip at every opportunity. Bardem is all of the killers…Javier, no!...rolled into one. The difference between the two films is that the killings in “Fargo” were connected to the story, instead of the other way around, and each one was unexpected. The first thing you see in “No Country” is, surprise, Bardem killing someone.

I will give the Coens some credit for the crafting of “No Country.” They did a very good job with all of the technical aspects of the film. Characteristic of a Coen movie is the painstaking attention to detail, ensuring nothing appears in a shot without a purpose and every character’s move is deliberate. The dichotomy of light and shadow created interesting visuals – especially near the end – and underscored the inherent battle between good and evil. “No Country” even included a moral: that we think things are worse now than ‘back then,’ but that it’s really just a different kind of crap. Plus something vague about getting older and the inevitability of it all. It’s a shame that they had to kill it…sit Javier…with a lifeless plot and rerun of a previous film. Coen films always manage to express a deep revelation of human nature or social commentary, in spite of – rather than in conjunction with – the crappy plots. The plot is secondary – like a supporting character rather than the main attraction.

The moral of my story is that the Coens have no idea how to write a good story or, in this case, adapt a book into a screenplay. Even if that book didn’t have a good story they should have been able to make it more interesting without mass murder. The other moral of my story is that I’m done watching the Coen brothers’ movies. For the last time, Javier, no more killing!

Rating: Five dollars for a well-done film, but minus seven dollars for a bad plot and pointless killing.

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