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No Plot For Old Men (or Anybody, Really)
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I'm still in Texas at the moment. We all went to see No Country for Old Men as a treat from my parents. I shouldn't have let myself get so pumped up for this movie, but it was over 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, and I'd been looking forward to a really good movie for a long time. I don't think I can help talking about the end of the movie, at least in general terms, so if you're worried about spoiler effects, you might want to stop reading. Wait, read one more thing: Don't say I didn't warn you that this film was a con job...basically one giant cinematic head fake. Okay, now you can stop if you don't want to hear spoilers.

So basically NCFOM is a masterfully-crafted cat-and-mouse film. Or maybe a cat-and-mouse-and-old-dog film. A welder who is out hunting comes across a drug deal gone horribly wrong and finds $2 million (I think it was set in the 70's, when that was still a lot of money). He decides to keep it, but a psychopath named Anton gets on his trail. Those would be the cat and the mouse. Meanwhile, Tommy Lee Jones plays a sheriff who is following behind, sort of, and putting the pieces together (he would be the old dog).

So imagine a high tension cat-and-mouse game where the mouse ends up dying anticlimactically in a trap off-screen, the cat goes and eats the mouse's wife instead, and the dog retires and tells about a dream he had in which his dad is carrying a torch.

I haven't been this pissed off at the ending of a movie since Limbo, the cinematic equivalent of The Lady and the Tiger. Hint to writers and directors trying to be avant garde: Building up to a climax and then leaving the audience twisting in the wind is not a daring new way to tell a's like a bad Andy Kaufman practical joke.

NCFOM isn't quite that egregious, but it's pretty bad, mostly because the first three quarters of the movie are so damned good. The tension is built masterfully, and the soundtrack has this low tuba burst every 30 seconds or so throughout the whole film that adds to a building sense of dread...which ends up going absolutely nowhere.

The protagonist is killed offscreen about 3/4 of the way through the film. Then his wife gets it. Then Tommy Lee Jones retires, seeming to wish he'd followed up on the case, but mostly just seeming bored.

What a huge letdown. There was no confrontation between the two central characters. Once the main character was taken out of the picture, I expected a confrontation between Anton and Jones' Sheriff, but we didn't get that either. What we got instead was existential blather and no meaningful resolution. Maybe it was more like real life...but guess what? Real life often doesn't make for satisfying entertainment.

Alas, Coen Brothers, you did me wrong. I would rather they hadn't come out with a new movie at all, rather than a huge tease with no payoff.

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