First published on 23 Apr 2008. Updated on 24 Apr 2008.
Filmmakers and brothers, Joel and Ethan Coen are back with a bloody adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s terse literary thriller about a Texan Vietnam vet who stumbles into the aftermath of a gangland drug operation. Like a pair of owlish mind readers, the Coen brothers have somehow done exactly the right thing to repuff their sagging artistic momentum.
Once celebrated for writing reams of quirky dialogue that would have choked Barton Fink, they now arrive with a new film that, barring a few scenes, seems remarkably button-lipped. Having had a few too many fat men holler randomly into space, they now prefer the quiet suffering of Texas tough guys who perform self-surgeries without flinching. And what little music we hear comes from the forlorn sound of the wind or cars passing on the freeway.
Set on the dusty borderlands in 1980, their movie is essentially a two-hour contest for the possession of a cache of stolen drug money. Our ostensible hero is Llewelyn Moss (an excellent Josh Brolin), a squinty-eyed, thickly moustached Marlboro Man who, while hunting, wanders upon the case of loot and sees an opportunity. Or maybe it’s the pursuing sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones, surpassing his own crusty righteousness).
But I fear the most compelling character is a vicious bounty hunter in a pageboy haircut (played by Oscar winner, Javier Bardem) who, in the sheriff’s words, is “pretty much a ghost.” Some will see poignancy in these codes of warfare. It’s really the last embers of the Coen brother’s sick humour glowing red.