Mind Over Splatter

This is going to be a difficult one. You know how sometimes you can just tell that despite a movie's commercial and critical success, it's just not for you? That's how I felt about the Coen brothers' 2007 smash (and eventual Best Picture winner) No Country for Old Men. My semi-reluctance to see it should be pretty apparent, given that I've had six years to watch it, and only just did. I should have just followed my instincts and skipped it, but as an avowed film-lover, I always feel guilty for passing on titles important to the cultural conversation, which this movie certainly is. By most measures, I should have enjoyed it. I generally like the Coens' movies. The cast is top-notch, and I have no complaints about the cinematography, the script, or really any of the big components that make up a movie's DNA.

But it's just...violence. 80% of the scenes are murder setpieces. Don't get me wrong, I don't object to violent movies. Hell, even within the Coen filmography, there's Fargo, an extremely violent movie that remains one of my favorites to this day. But Fargo struck me as a story that incorporated a lot of violence, rather than a string of violence with a dash of story. No Country for Old Men is just murder after murder after murder after murder, and there isn't enough connective tissue of plot holding them together. It's the same reason I'm still miffed about Gladiator winning the top prize: Giving a gore-fest higher production values and a big name cast doesn't mean it's suddenly brilliant storytelling. It's just a big-budget slasher.

I worry that this may come off as blasphemy, and I'm more than willing to believe that movies like this are just not to my tastes (or that I'm missing subtleties that others are picking up). Maybe I just don't get it. But perhaps it's time to stop pretending that I'm eventually going to. Far be it from me to suggest that two hours of people getting their throats shot out isn't Grand Art. Just make sure the theater showing it is far from me as well.

No Country for Old Men: C


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