Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 2010. Paramount Pictures, Skydance Media, Scott Rudin Productions, Mike Zoss Productions. Screenplay by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, based on the novel by Charles Portis. Cinematography by Roger Deakins. Produced by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin. Music by Carter Burwell. Production Design by Jess Gonchor. Costume Design by Mary Zophres. Film Editing by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen. Academy Awards 2010. American Film Institute 2010. Boston Film Critics Awards 2010. Las Vegas Film Critics Awards 2010. National Board of Review Awards 2010. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2010. Washington Film Critics Awards 2010.
Hailee Steinfeld is excellent as a fourteen year-old girl who leaves her rural county to head to the big city and find the man who shot her father. Having deduced his name and the direction in which he has headed, this young spitfire works a miraculous deal with a banker in order to put together a stash of money that she can use to hire a bounty hunter. The one she wants is an aging, failing and ornery old coot (Jeff Bridges) who resists her offer at first but eventually gives in because, quite frankly, he’s not likely to see this kind of action much more in his dwindling life. The two of them are joined on their trek by a tall-tale spouting Texas ranger (Matt Damon) who wants her father’s killer (Josh Brolin) for his own reasons. This absorbing remake of the 1969 Henry Hathaway original starring John Wayne finds the Coen brothers somewhere between their best and their worst (though definitely closer to the former). When they leave the quirky self-awareness behind, as in masterpieces like Fargo and No Country For Old Men, their films are so much more enjoyable than when they produce their cloying tributes to their favourite genres (The Hudsucker Proxy, Miller’s Crossing and Burn After Reading spring to, and grate on, the mind). Here they have assembled a superb cast, written a knock-out screenplay and made a film that is intelligent and incredibly entertaining, even if it is short-shrifted by an anticlimatic ending that fails to deliver a punch. There are still shades of smarmy cuteness here and there: as with their more trying films, you feel not like you’re watching a movie, but a movie of a movie, but here the Coens wisely keep the pony tricks to a minimum (for them) and the film is overall a wonderful experience.