Saturday, October 4, 2014

I'm still obsessing over No Country for Old Men

Don't ask me why. The story plagues my mind. There are two possibilities: the author's a scam artist who intentionally put the antagonist from a slasher movie into a noir crime drama, or it's a "metaphor." Fuck metaphors, though that choice is less damning of Cormac McCarthy. Either way, the story could have been grounded, put into a shape I might have liked, by one change.  Wells, the other narco errand boy, played by Woody Harrelson in the movie, is taken out by Chigurh in true slasher movie style. Chigurh appears from nowhere, corners Wells, and murders the hell out of him. One change would make it all better. Wells isn't sent by a competitor, he's sent by the same boss who sent Chigurh to recover the money. The boss is pissed at all the attention Chigurh's mindless rampage is bringing down on him. This has a basis in reality, unlike the story as it is. Local law enforcement isn't hung out to dry in the real world. In a drug case involving lots of bodies, the DEA, the FBI, and various state agencies would pour into the area. There'd be so many cops, they'd be bumping into each other. So the boss sent Wells to get Chigurh under control. One scene and Chigurh is transformed from a hellish Jason Voorhees into a real-world hitman. Chigurh corners Wells, but Wells reacts this way...


    "Point that little toy of yours somewhere else or I'll ram it up your ass. You know who sent me, dickhead. You know what will happen to you if you ignore what I have to say."
    Chigurh's demeanor changed slightly. A flicker of doubt crossed over his eyes. He lowered the mutated shotgun and hid it under his jacket.
    "What the fuck do you think you've been doing here?"
    "Getting back his money."
    "No, you've been spreading bodies all over the landscape. The fucking feds are involved. A couple of the dead men are linked to men who are linked to the boss, so now the boss has heat on himself thanks to your fucked up killstreak. What otherwise would have been a bunch of dead narcotraffickers in the desert has become a manhunt for you. They have a hard-on for the boss, they want you to take them to him. That's not going to happen, because you're going to ditch your weird little toys. Throw them in a lake. I've brought some tools we'll use, but only if we have to. Nobody anybody gives a shit about dies. No store owners, no cops, nobody. The cartel has people involved..."
    "We'll have to kill them."
    "Well, yeah. They're only here because of the mess you made."
    Chigurh was now contrite, as if the murders he had committed were school-boy pranks. His face took on some character, it was no longer dead. He looked at Wells with appealing childish eyes. "Will I be forgiven?"
    "You're already forgiven. You do good work, but you get carried away. Need to calm down, man."
    "You're here to help."
    "Yes. He would have sent the other ones down if you were in serious shit with him. Let's go out to the car and get my bang-bangs."
    Chigurh smiled. He must have smiled before at some point in the past, because the expression did not surprise Wells. "What did you bring?"
    "Clean weapons. Silenced .22s, a silenced Mac-11. I figure you'll want the Mac."
    "Yeah." It was drawn out. "Too bad about my other stuff."
    "We're going to have to ditch those. You can make more later."
    They left the room.


See? Metaphor or misplaced Freddy, keeping Wells alive, shaming Chigurh makes him human, which also makes him more sinister. Wells and Chigurh wipe out the cartel guys, leave with the money. Moss's wife isn't murdered by Chigurh, she's killed in a car accident driving back from his funeral. To me, this is a more satisfying story. I hate Jason and Freddy anyway. Don't mind Pinhead too much, though. Regardless, they don't belong in noir crime fiction. Noir addresses the underlying harsh realities of human existence. To mess with it by inserting metaphors or creeps from horror movies is an insult to the genre.