Anton Chigurh

Fictional hitman
Fictional character
Anton Chigurh
Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in the 2007 film adaptation of No Country for Old Men
First appearanceNo Country for Old Men (2005)
Last appearanceNo Country for Old Men (2007)
Created byCormac McCarthy
Adapted byJoel and Ethan Coen
Portrayed byJavier Bardem
In-universe information
SpeciesHuman
GenderMale
OccupationProfessional hitman

Anton Chigurh is a fictional character and the main antagonist of Cormac McCarthy's 2005 novel No Country for Old Men. In the 2007 film adaptation of the same name, he is portrayed by Javier Bardem.

Bardem's performance as Chigurh was widely lauded by film critics—he won an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award and a British Academy Film Award for the role. Other accolades include Chigurh's presence on numerous Greatest Villain lists, most notably in Empire's list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time, in which he was ranked #44,[1] as well as being named the most realistic film depiction of a psychopath by an independent group of psychologists in the Journal of Forensic Sciences.[2]

Character overview

Chigurh is devoid of conscience, remorse, and compassion. He is described by Carson Wells, a central character in the novel, as a "psychopathic killer" in his 30s with a dark complexion. Other characters describe Chigurh's facial features as "exotic looking". His signature weapon is a captive bolt stunner, which he uses to kill his victims and also as a tool to shoot out door locks. He also wields a sound-suppressed Remington 11-87 semiautomatic shotgun and pistol (as well as a TEC-9 in the film adaptation). Throughout the novel and the film, Chigurh flips a coin to decide the fate of some of his victims.

Creation

The character is a recurrence of the "Unstoppable Evil" archetype frequently found in Cormac McCarthy's work. However, the Coen brothers wanted to avoid one-dimensionality, particularly a comparison to The Terminator. To avoid a sense of identification, the Coens sought to cast someone "who could have come from Mars". The brothers introduced the character at the beginning of the film in a manner similar to the opening of the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth. Film critic David DuBos described Chigurh as a "modern equivalent of Death from Ingmar Bergman's 1957 film The Seventh Seal."[3]

When Joel and Ethan Coen approached Javier Bardem about playing Chigurh, he replied, "I don't drive, I speak bad English and I hate violence." The Coens responded, "That's why we called you." Bardem said he took the role because he dreamed of being in a Coen Brothers film.[4]

The Coen brothers got the idea for Chigurh's hairstyle from a book Tommy Lee Jones had. It featured a 1979 photo of a man sitting in the bar of a brothel with a very similar hairstyle and clothes similar to those worn by Chigurh in the film. Oscar-winning hairstylist Paul LeBlanc designed the hairdo. The Coens instructed LeBlanc to create a "strange and unsettling" hairstyle. LeBlanc based the style on the mop tops of the English warriors in the Crusades as well as the Mod haircuts of the 1960s. Bardem told LeBlanc each morning when he finished that the style helped him to get into character. Bardem supposedly said he was "not going to get laid for two months" because of his haircut.[5]

His background and nationality are left undisclosed and largely open to speculation. When writer Cormac McCarthy visited the set of the film adaptation of his novel, the actors inquired about Chigurh's background and the symbolic significance of his name. McCarthy replied, "I just thought it was a cool name."[4]

Role in the plot

In 1980, Chigurh is hired to retrieve a satchel holding $2.4 million from the scene of a drug deal gone wrong in West Texas. He discovers that a local welder named Llewelyn Moss, who chanced upon the money while hunting, has taken it and left town. Chigurh tracks Moss down to a motel using a receiver that connects to a transponder hidden in the satchel. However, Moss has hidden the money in a ventilation duct. When he returns to the motel, suspecting (correctly) that someone is in his room, he retrieves the money from the connected vent in a second rented room on the other side of the motel. A group of Mexican gangsters sent to ambush him occupies his original room. When Chigurh enters this room, he kills the gangsters and searches for the money, but it is nowhere to be found. Moss, meanwhile, has already fled after hearing the gunfire.

Chigurh ruthlessly tracks Moss down. The hotel confrontation between Moss and Chigurh plays out very differently in the film than in the novel. In the novel, Chigurh steals the key from a murdered hotel clerk and quietly enters Moss's room, where Moss ambushes him and takes him captive at gunpoint. Then Moss runs, and the chase/shootout begins. As Chigurh and Moss face off in the hotel and the streets, they are interrupted by a group of Mexicans, all of whom Chigurh kills. In the film, Chigurh punches out the lock on the hotel door and wounds Moss. During their ensuing face-off, only Moss and Chigurh are shown fighting; the group of Mexicans is not present.

Chigurh discovers that Carson Wells, another bounty hunter and a former colleague, has been hired to retrieve the money and eliminate him. Chigurh kills Wells, who tried to make a deal with Moss to give him protection in exchange for the money. Chigurh then intercepts a phone call from Moss in Wells' hotel room and offers to spare Moss's wife if he agrees to give up the money. Moss refuses and vows to track down and kill Chigurh. Chigurh kills the man who hired him and the Mexicans as revenge for not trusting Chigurh to complete the job. Mexican hitmen eventually kill Moss at a motel in El Paso. Unknown to the Mexicans at the time of their ambush, however, Moss had hidden the money in the vents again. Chigurh shows up after the police have left, retrieves the money from the vent, and returns it to the investor.

Moss's widow returns home after her mother's funeral to find Chigurh inside waiting for her. After hearing her pleas for mercy, he asks her to bet her life on a coin toss. In the book, she calls heads; it comes up tails, and he shoots and kills her. In the film adaptation, she refuses to call the toss, saying, "the coin don't have no say. It's just you." The movie then cuts to a shot of Chigurh leaving the house and checking the soles of his boots for blood, implying that he has killed her. While driving away from her house, Chigurh is badly injured in a car accident, sustaining a compound fracture of his left ulna and walking away with a limp. At the scene of the accident, before the authorities arrive, he offers $100 to a teenager on a bicycle to give him his shirt, seeking to use it to bind up his wounds and use it as a sling for his now broken arm. Chigurh then flees the scene before the ambulance arrives.

Analysis

Chigurh's depiction as a seemingly inhuman foreign antagonist reflects the apprehension of the post-9/11 era.[6] Many of McCarthy's works portray individuals in conflict with society, acting on instinct rather than emotion or thought.[7]

Reception

Critics have praised Bardem's portrayal of Chigurh, for which he received an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA.

Yale professor Harold Bloom labeled Chigurh the main weakness of No Country for Old Men, saying he "has none of the legitimacy or grandeur that Judge Holden has."[8]

UGO.com ranked him in its list of top 11 "silver screen psychos", saying, "Chigurh is an assassin of little words and interesting choices of weaponry—is a man without a sense of humor. Others might say he's got a warped sense of principles. One thing that most can agree on, is Chigurh is one crazy S.O.B.—ruthlessly killing damn near anyone who sets eyes on him, let alone those who get in his way. And apparently, the only way you can survive a run-in with the man is the 50–50 chance of a coin toss, but Dear God, don't question his motives, it just seems to irritate him even more so."[9]

Empire.com ranked him #46 in their list of the 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time, praising the look on his face when he strangles a cop with his own handcuffs and that "when American novelist Cormac McCarthy wants to throw a dark character at you, it's a safe assumption that you're not going to be able to get them out of your head for a good, long while—if ever. One of his best is Chigurh, and between the Coens and Bardem, they never missed a beat in bringing this monster to the screen. With the kind of unholy relentlessness usually reserved for horror icons, the hired killer has an almost supernatural ability to track his prey, and is rather short in the mercy department, preferring to leave the tough decisions to a coin toss. And that bowl cut is utterly terrifying."[10]

In popular culture

Being well received after the theatrical run of No Country for Old Men, Chigurh has been parodied in other media, mainly as a spoof of the film's most memorable scenes.

A parody titled There Will Be Milkshakes for Old Men was featured in Episode 5 of Season 33 of NBC's Saturday Night Live, which aired on February 23, 2008. Fred Armisen appears as Anton Chigurh, complete with a captive bolt pistol and pageboy haircut, mimicking his famous gas stop scene.[11][12] The same Saturday Night Live episode also featured a parody of No Country for Old Men titled Grandkids in the Movies.[13] Professional wrestler Chris Jericho has stated the heel version of his character debuted in 2008 was directly inspired by Anton Chigurh's calm, indomitable demeanor.[14]

Kevin James spoofed Chigurh in the short film No Country for Sound Guy, released July 17, 2020.[15]

References

  1. ^ "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters". Empire Online. November 24, 2023.
  2. ^ Engelhaupt, Erika (January 14, 2014). "The most (and least) realistic movie psychopaths ever". Science News. Archived from the original on January 22, 2014.
  3. ^ DuBos, David. "MovieTalk with David DuBos". New Orleans Magazine. Archived from the original on February 7, 2008. Retrieved March 13, 2008.
  4. ^ a b "Chigurh Trivia". Anton Chigurh.com. 2012-03-24. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
  5. ^ Iley, Chrissy (28 February 2008). "The Method Haircut That Won an Oscar". The Guardian. London, England. Retrieved 2 October 2018.
  6. ^ Hwang, Jung-Suk (2018). "The Wild West, 9/11, and Mexicans in Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men". Texas Studies in Literature and Language. 60 (3): 346–371. doi:10.7560/TSLL60304. S2CID 165691304.
  7. ^ "Cormac McCarthy".
  8. ^ "Harold Bloom on Blood Meridian". The A.V. Club. June 15, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2020.
  9. ^ "UGO.com 11 Silver Screen Psychos". UGO.com. March 24, 2012. Archived from the original on April 20, 2012. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  10. ^ "Empire 100 Greatest Movie Characters". Empire.com. March 24, 2012. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  11. ^ "There Will Be Milkshakes for Old Men". NBC.com. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  12. ^ "Saturday Night Live Drinks Your Milkshake". BuzzSugar.com. March 26, 2008.
  13. ^ "Saturday Night Live – SNL Digital Short: Grandkids in the Movies". Bing.com/videos. Retrieved May 12, 2012.
  14. ^ "Wrestler Chris Jericho Kicks Ass With Fozzy – WWE Will Have to Wait |". Archived from the original on 2017-03-14. Retrieved 2017-03-13.
  15. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "No Country for Sound Guy | Kevin James". YouTube.

Further reading

  • Doom, Ryan P. (2009). "The unrelenting country: No Country for Old Men (2007)". The Brothers Coen: Unique Characters of Violence. Praeger. pp. 149–162. ISBN 978-0-313-35599-8.
  • v
  • t
  • e
Novels
The Border Trilogy
  • All the Pretty Horses (1992)
  • The Crossing (1994)
  • Cities of the Plain (1998)
  • No Country for Old Men (2005)
  • The Road (2006)
  • The Passenger (2022)
  • Stella Maris (2022)
PlaysScreenplays
  • The Gardener's Son: A Screenplay (1996)
  • The Sunset Limited (2011)
  • The Counselor (2013)
NonfictionFilms
From original screenplays
From adapted screenplays
  • All the Pretty Horses (2000)
  • No Country for Old Men (2007)
  • The Road (2009)
  • The Sunset Limited (2011)
  • Child of God (2013)
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