Matthew Dancona

Villains that steal the show

Villains that steal the show
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I took Peter’s advice and went to see No Country for Old Men over the weekend. This is indeed the Coen brothers at their absolute best (which is saying something), as well as a welcome return to the bleak terrain of Blood Simple, the film that made their name in 1984.

The core of the movie is a trio of fine performances: Josh Brolin as the guy who stumbles into the aftermath of a drugs shoot-out and takes the cash, Tommy Lee Jones as the baffled, weather-beaten sheriff and Javier Bardem as the psychotic hitman and collector, Anton Chigurh.

The film is worth seeing for Bardem’s Golden Globe-winning performance alone which is quite simply one of the most chilling evocations of evil ever brought to the screen. Chigurh’s occasional clumsiness, unexplained exoticism and preposterous haircut only add to his menace. But – as one would expect from the Coens – it is the dialogue that seals the deal. Here’s a taste:

Anton Chigurh: What's the most you ever lost on a coin toss.

Gas Station Proprietor: Sir?

Anton Chigurh: The most. You ever lost. On a coin toss.

Gas Station Proprietor: I don't know. I couldn't say.

[Chigurh flips a quarter from the change on the counter and covers it with his hand]

Anton Chigurh: Call it.

Gas Station Proprietor: Call it?

Anton Chigurh: Yes.

Gas Station Proprietor: For what?

Anton Chigurh: Just call it.

Gas Station Proprietor: Well, we need to know what we're calling it for here.

Anton Chigurh: You need to call it. I can't call it for you. It wouldn't be fair.

Gas Station Proprietor: I didn't put nothin' up.

Anton Chigurh: Yes, you did. You've been putting it up your whole life you just didn't know it. You know what date is on this coin?

Gas Station Proprietor: No.

Anton Chigurh: 1958. It's been traveling twenty-two years to get here. And now it's here. And it's either heads or tails. And you have to say. Call it.

Gas Station Proprietor: Look, I need to know what I stand to win.

Anton Chigurh: Everything.

Gas Station Proprietor: How's that?

Anton Chigurh: You stand to win everything. Call it.

Gas Station Proprietor: Alright. Heads then.

[Chigurh removes his hand, revealing the coin is indeed heads]

Anton Chigurh: Well done.

[the gas station proprietor nervously takes the quarter with the small pile of change he's apparently won while Chigurh starts out]

Anton Chigurh: Don't put it in your pocket, sir. Don't put it in your pocket. It's your lucky quarter.

Gas Station Proprietor: Where do you want me to put it?

Anton Chigurh: Anywhere not in your pocket. Where it'll get mixed in with the others and become just a coin. Which it is.

[Chigurh leaves and the gas station proprietor stares at him as he walks out]

Chigurh is up there with Hannibal Lecter, Jack Torrance in The Shining, Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter (and Cape Fear), and Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity. What other names would Coffee Housers add to this list of the greatest movie villains?