No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men ★½

The suspenseful sequences are good. So good. Often smart, resourceful people pitted against one another. Who knows where it could go, because they both sorta know what to do? The scene with Brolin and Bardem at the hotel is great. So tense. So full of memorable seat-clenching moments.

It's a shame the surrounding movie is so dull and ideologically poisonous. Nothing about any of that works for me. The extremely dark material rendered somewhat absurd and comical through the Coens' lens. I don't want a three minute scene of Bardem nearly murdering an old man at a gas station because he asked a random question, let alone a three minute scene that expects me to kind of laugh at how quickly this poor old man has dug himself into a nearly fatal hole. I don't want the many many scenes that feel like they could be the end of the movie, pontificating on life's random cruelty and the ways in which humanity is incomprehensible in its awfulness. I don't even want the regular stuff, like Tommy Lee Jones' cutesy relationship with his wife, Loretta. It feels like Fargo-lite. But no one has the sweetness of the Gundersons. No one. I just want a genre movie that doesn't pretend it's anything else. I want Blood Simple but with 20 years of screenwriting know-how that taught them how to properly end scenes (many of this film's scenes end nicely even when they're abrupt). I don't want misanthropic ruminations on how America is sinking into a vortex of evil. What good is that? What does that worldview really offer?

McCarthy feels like pornography for middlebrow cynics who fancy themselves edgy visionaries. He's the erudite version of this terrible punk show I saw when I was 19 where a singer proclaimed unironically that the next song was called "Blood & Oil" and it was gonna be a song about George W. Bush and U.S. involvement in Iraq and the chorus was just him screaming "You're the terrorist!" over and over. I understand your frustration, I guess, but showing people be ugly to each other in creative and unexpected ways isn't an inherently strong intellectual project.