Who's in It:
Tommy Lee Jones, Julio Cedillo, Barry Pepper, Dwight Yoakam, Melissa Leo, January Jones
The Basics: Grizzled old South Texas cowboy Pete (Jones) won't rest until he finds the killer of his best friend, Melquiades (Cedillo). When the accidental executioner turns out to be a violent border patrol agent (Pepper), Pete kidnaps him and enlists his help in taking "Mel" to his final resting place across the border. That's grit you're tasting, by the way.
What's the Deal? When grumpy, self-important film icons like Jones turn their attentions toward directing, you kind of hope they fail at it and end up making something like Weekend at Bernie's, because really, do we need another Mel Gibson on our hands? But then they go and make a pretty good movie, which is even more annoying. It's part hard, unforgiving modern western about how everyone lies and fails, and part bizarro buddy movie. And it strikes a weird balance between being no-nonsense and having a sense of humor that's as pitch-black as a decomposing corpse. You win this time, Tommy Lee Jones.
Pedigree: It's already a winner at this year's Cannes Film Festival for Jones (Best Actor) and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros, 21 Grams). But with that other cowboy movie hogging all the critics' awards at the moment, this one may get shut out of any non-French honors.
Coolest Cast Member: Melissa Leo plays the slutty town waitress who's equally smart and dumb, and contemptible and heroic. She's so good you almost hate her.
Race Relations Somewhat Strained: A heavy dose of flawed social critique wears out its welcome quickly, though. Can every white person be bad and every Mexican person be good? In real life, probably not. But in this movie, sure.
Legendary Musician Alert: No, not Dwight Yoakam. It's Levon Helm, member of The Band and occasional actor, who shows up as a blind old guy with a radio.