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Violence Overwhelms 'No Country'

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

MORNING EDITION and Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan says with their latest film they take those signatures to another level.

KENNETH TURAN: With "No Country for Old Men," the Coen brothers dropped the mask. They've put violence on screen before, lots of it, but not like this. Not anything like this. "No Country for Old Men" doesn't celebrate or smile at violence; it despairs of it. This intense, nihilistic thriller tells the story of stolen drug money and the horrific carnage it precipitates. The Coen's escort you through a world so pitilessly bleak that, as one character says, you put your soul at hazard to be part of it.

(SOUNDBITE FROM MOVIE, "NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN")

GARRET DILLAHUNT: (As Wendell) A lab report from Austin on that boy by the highway.

TOMMY LEE JONES: (As Sheriff Ed Tom Bell) What was the bullet?

DILLAHUNT: (As Wendell) There weren't no bullet.

LEE JONES: (As Sheriff Ed Tom Bell) Weren't no bullet?

DILLAHUNT: (As Wendell) Yes, sir. Wasn't none. The Rangers and the DEA are headed back out to the scene this morning. You're going to join them?

LEE JONES: (As Sheriff Ed Tom Bell) Any new bodies accumulate out there?

DILLAHUNT: (As Wendell) No, sir.

LEE JONES: (As Sheriff Ed Tom Bell) Well, then I guess I can skip it.

TURAN: That's Tommy Lee Jones as a West Texas law man unnerved by the violence around him. Josh Brolin plays a local man who comes across millions in drug money and walks off with it. Sent to recover the cash is Javier Bardem, who chills the blood as a man who quite literally would as soon kill you as look at you.

(SOUNDBITE FROM MOVIE, "NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN")

JAVIER BARDEM: (As Anton Chigurh) You know how this is going to turn out, don't you? I won't tell you you can save yourself, because you can't. That's the best deal you're going to get.

TURAN: As the film begins, a confident deputy says I got it under control, and in moments he is dead. He didn't have anywhere near the mastery he imagined. And in this despairing vision, neither does anyone else.

MONTAGNE: See clips for "No Country for Old Men," plus lots more about what's playing in theaters this week at our Web site, npr.org/movies. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.

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