Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Leonard Smalls vs. Anton Chigurh

I'm a huge Coen brothers fan.  The Big Lebowski is my all-time favorite movie, but that's not what I want to write about.  I recently watched Raising Arizona again, and I couldn't help noticing some striking similarities to another Coen film: No Country for Old Men.  If you've seen both of these films, the comparison may seem like a stretch, but I've been thinking about this a lot the past couple weeks (just ask my wife), and not only do I think the films are eerily similar, I think a case can made that they are essentially the same movie.  For the record, I don't consider that a bad thing.  In fact, I think it's genius.

Both films have the same basic premise.  The protagonist takes something that doesn't belong to him, and then is relentlessly pursued by a demonic antagonist.  The Coens deftly use both Leonard Smalls and Anton Chigurh as symbols.

You don't have to be a film expert to realize these two characters represent pure evil.  On a deeper level, the Coens use the bounty hunter and the hitman to symbolize the evil of the times, which happens to be the 80s in both films, catching up with America.  Or something like that.  The Coens do love their symbolism.  I'm certainly open to other interpretations.

There are other, smaller similarities as well.  Both movies are set in the desert Southwest.  Both films have friendly police officers, and finally, both movies feature lengthy scenes with dogs chasing the protagonist.  There are more, but you get the point.

Now, having tried to make the case that Raising Arizona and No Country for Old Men are basically the same movie, I want to give the Coens their due.  These cats are auteurs, so I'm pretty sure they did it on purpose.  Even though the films are quite similar, the tone is completely different.  Raising Arizona was made pre 9/11, and the movie is essentially a comedy.  NCFOM was made post 9/11, and it is most definitely not a comedy, unless you tend to the very dark.  I have a feeling the Coens made the same movie to illustrate how different our world has become.

Of course, this could all be complete nonsense.  I can't help myself.  I watched a lot of Siskel and Ebert growing up.


  1. The only two Coen brother movies I have watched were, "Fargo" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou". I find them a little 'out' there, my husband is a fan.

  2. I recently saw "Raising Arizona" again. I tend to appreciate the Coen brothers movies more as I revisit them. I would have not made the connection with the similarities in both films. Thank you for taking the time to give it some thought. I'll have to do the same next time around.

  3. nice one mate, i enjoyed reading your theory which i pretty much share

  4. Agreed. Looked up both names and came upon yer post. Cheers!

  5. Agreed. Looked up both names and came upon yer post. Cheers!