Time: 122 mins.
Won Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor (Bardem), Director, Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. Nominations for Best Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound and Sound Editing.
SYNOPSIS: Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon some dead bodies, a stash of heroin and more than $2 million in cash near the Rio Grande. Instead of just walking away, he takes the money and then quickly finds himself running for his life from an cold-hearted, relentless contract killer.
BOTTOM LINE: While this film is probably only marginally more bloody and violent than most of Coen Brothers work, it takes a much greater mental toll to sit through. No black humor here, this is just one dangerous and fatal encounter after another all because of a drug score gone wrong and a seemingly decent man's inabillity to walk away from a bundle of cash that he believes no one will realize he took from the dead dealers. He knows the money will transform his hardscrabble existence, unfortunately not in the positive ways he hoped. Brolin gives the performance of his career, making you actually feel sorry for a man who acted stupidly and finds himself in way, way, way over his head. The fact that you know he's not coming out of this alive in the first half hour is what makes the film so disheartening and intense. He turns out to be fairly clever in covering his tracks, it's just that he's new to this game and his pursuer is an expert at his craft. Nor does he care one whit for any human life except his own, so Brolin – and his gal who had nothing to do with it, which sucks for her –is pretty much doomed, unless he gets lucky...and life usually doesn't work that way.
Everyone has made a big deal about Bardem's haircut, but frankly I found it only added to his character's creepiness. Anton is clearly a man on a mission who's very dead inside and almost no one escapes an encounter with him alive. There's one older lady who gives him a piece of her mind (in a scene that is both funny and terrifying) and lives to tell the tale, but she's about it. He just oozes a quiet menace that sucks the fight out of any room he enters, leaving no doubt about his intentions. You can beg, but it won't do you any good. That's if he gives you time to talk, which isn't likely. He's a human terminator and it's his unforgiving pursuit that drives the pace of the film, whether he's onscreen or not. Jones and Harrelson give wonderful supporting turns. The former as the Sheriff trying to figure out what's actually going on behind these seemingly random murders and the latter as a more level-headed and sociable contract killer, who tries to help Brolin escape his fate and winds up smack dab in the middle of the mess. In the end, however, it's all about the inevetable confrontation between Brolin and Bardem, which is a real doozie.
While this film doesn't have a very complicated plot, it IS well-crafted and perfectly paced for maximum suspense and carnage, which is the reason I couldn't rate it higher. I appreciated the talent and execution, but it was just too dark to be "enjoyed." Though I can guarantee it will stick with you for a long time.