No Country for Old Men (2007)

A Texan man’s reckless decision to keep a bag of drug money found in the desert puts him in the crosshairs of an unstoppable bounty hunter.

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“[‘No Country for Old Men’] is a reiteration of the old myth that Death stalks the land. That is why West Texas has that desert look, the scorched air, and the heat that leaves brave men listless.”
David Thomson, Have You Seen...? 2008

The stash of cash is a favourite plot device of the Coen brothers, but the idea has seldom been unpacked with the brutal elan they bring to bear on this, one of their most critically and commercially successful projects.

Closely based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, the story follows a Texan man (Josh Brolin) whose opportunism puts him in the sights of an implacable mob enforcer (Javier Bardem) distinguished by detached sadism and bizarre and profoundly disturbing self-righteousness. Meanwhile, a local sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) tries against his better judgement to see right done.

Dry as dust, slippery in genre terms and scathing about the lure of money, it’s a compelling yarn and a brilliant character piece that winds slowly towards a climax that is both devastating and elegiac.

The Coens also sent fools after piles of cash in Fargo (1996) and The Big Lebowski (1997), while Charley Varrick (1973) shares many elements of plot, character and locale with No Country for Old Men.

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