Anton Chigurh

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Anton Chigurh
First appearance No Country For Old Men
Created by Cormac McCarthy
Portrayed by Javier Bardem
Information
Gender Male
Occupation Professional Hitman
Nationality Unknown

Anton Chigurh is the main antagonist of Cormac McCarthy's novel No Country for Old Men and its film adaptation. He is portrayed by Javier Bardem in the film.

In the novel and film, Chigurh is portrayed as an unstoppable hitman who kills almost everyone he meets. While he is a ruthless killer, Chigurh occasionally gives his victims a second chance by flipping a coin and letting fate decide if he should spare them or not.

The character met heavy praise during the film's theatrical run, where Javier Bardem won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for his performance. Chigurh has been added to numerous lists of greatest villains, most notably in Empire Magazine's List of the 100 Greatest Movie Characters Of All Time.

Character overview[edit]

Chigurh is a hitman with no remorse or compassion for other human beings; he is described by one character in the novel as a "psychopathic killer." He nevertheless lives by a kind of moral code; in the novel and film, he kills people even when his contract does not require it, simply because he feels they are "accountable".

He is described in the novel as being in his 30s, with a dark complexion, and eyes as "blue as lapis ... Like wet stones." His signature weapon is a captive bolt pistol, which he uses both to kill his victims or to destroy cylinder locks on doors. He also wields a sound-suppressed Remington 11-87 semiautomatic shotgun and pistol (a TEC-9 in the film adaptation). Throughout both the novel and the film, Chigurh flips a coin to decide whether to kill prospective victims. The Remington 11-87 was actually released seven years after the original setting of the book but it had still made an appearance as one of the most memorable weapons in the movie.

Creation[edit]

The character was a recurrence of the "Unstoppable Evil" archetype found in the Coen brothers' work, though the brothers wanted to avoid one-dimensionality, particularly a comparison to The Terminator. The Coen brothers sought to cast someone "who could have come from Mars" to avoid a sense of identification. The brothers introduced the character in the beginning of the film in a manner similar to the opening of the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth. Chigurh has been perceived as a "modern equivalent of Death from Ingmar Bergman's 1957 film The Seventh Seal."[1]

When Joel Coen and Ethan Coen approached Javier Bardem about playing Chigurh, he said "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 his dream was to be in a Coen Brothers film.[2]

The Coen brothers got the idea for Chigurh's hair from a book Tommy Lee Jones had. It featured a 1979 photo of a man sitting in the bar of a brothel with very similar haircut and clothes to those that Chigurh ended up wearing in the movie. Oscar-winning hairstylist Paul LeBlanc designed the hairdo. The Coens instructed him to create a "strange and unsettling" hairstyle. LeBlanc based it on the mop tops of the English warriors in the Crusades, as well as the Mod haircuts of the 1960s. Javier Bardem told LeBlanc every morning when he finished the hair that it helped him to get into character. Bardem famously feared he was "not going to get laid for three months" because of his haircut.[2]

When writer Cormac McCarthy visited the set, the actors inquired about Chigurh's background and the symbolic significance of his name. McCarthy simply replied, "I just thought it was a cool name." [2]

Role in the plot[edit]

In 1980, Chigurh is hired to retrieve a satchel holding US$2.4 million from the scene of a drug deal gone wrong. However, 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 of money. However, Moss has hidden the money in a ventilation duct, and 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 backside of the motel. His original room is in fact being occupied by a group of Mexican gangsters sent to ambush him. When Chigurh enters this room, he kills the Mexicans and searches for the money, but it is nowhere to be found. Moss, meanwhile, has already fled after hearing the subsequent gunfire.

Chigurh then ruthlessly tracks Moss down. The hotel confrontation between Moss and Chigurh plays out very differently in the film from the novel; rather than punching out the lock and wounding Moss, in the novel Chigurh apparently steals a key from a murdered clerk and quietly enters Moss's room, and Moss ambushes him and takes him captive at gunpoint, so they have a chance to see and know each other. 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. However, this scene was cut and decreased to the point that only Moss and Chigurh fight.

Chigurh finds out that a bounty hunter named Carson Wells has, like Chigurh, been hired to retrieve the money. Chigurh kills Wells, who made a deal with Moss to give protection in exchange for the money. He then intercepts a phone call to Wells from Moss, and offers to spare Moss's wife if he agrees to give up the money. Moss refuses, however, and vows to track down and kill Chigurh. Moss is eventually killed by Mexican gangsters at another motel in El Paso. Once again Moss hid the money in the vents, which was unseen by the Mexicans at the time of their ambush. Chigurh arrives at the scene of the crime after the police have left, retrieves the money from the vent, and gives it back to his employers.

Near the end of the book, Moss's widow returns home to find Chigurh inside, waiting for her. After hearing her pleas for mercy, he partially relents by relying on his 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, checking the soles of his boots, implying that he has killed her. While driving away from her house some three blocks away, Chigurh is badly injured in a car accident, sustaining a compound fracture of his left ulna and walking away with a limp. At the collision scene, 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 himself. Chigurh then flees the scene before the ambulance arrives.

Personality[edit]

While Chigurh kills without compunction or remorse, he is described as having his own set of morals, however twisted they may be. He does not kill at random or without purpose, although his reasons are often unexplained.[3] He sees himself as a hand of fate; an instrument who exacts what is supposed to happen upon those he sees accountable. He gives many of his victims he faces a chance to survive by making deals either personally, or by flipping coins in making decisions. In the novel, he is depicted as having a great deal of endurance, such as being capable of withstanding pain from multiple shotgun blasts or from a fractured arm.

Anton Chigurh kills or tries to kill almost every person he meets and speaks to during the film. The only people he spares are a gas station proprietor (who guesses right during Chigurh's coin-flipping), a woman at a trailer park office, a woman at a motel front desk, an accountant (assumed anyway) and two children at the end.[3]

Reception[edit]

Critics have praised Bardem's portrayal of Chigurh, which won him an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA. Chigurh, as played by Bardem, has been added to numerous lists of greatest villains.

UGO.com ranked him in its list of top 11 "silver screen psychos", saying that "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 moreso."[4]

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."[5]

Popular culture[edit]

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. Ike Barinholtz plays Anton Chigurh in the spoof movie Disaster Movie, while Carlos Areces plays Anton Chigurh in the spoof movie Spanish Movie. Chigurh also appeared in The Simpsons episode "Waverly Hills 9-0-2-1-D'oh", in which he is seen as a city inspector.

WWE Superstar Chris Jericho based his second gimmick on Anton Chigurh after seeing No Country For Old Men.

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 makes an appearance as Anton Chigurh, complete with deadly air tank and pageboy haircut, mimicking his famous gas stop scene. In addition, Bill Hader did an impression of Daniel Plainview, Daniel Day-Lewis's character from the film There Will Be Blood, and emphasized the line "I drink your milkshake" as the basis for a Food Network show that finds Plainview traveling the country in search of the perfect milkshake.[6][7] The same Saturday Night Live episode also featured a parody of No Country for Old Men titled Grandkids in the Movies.[8]

The Spanish television New Year's special Es Bello Vivir (It’s a wonderful life), which premiered on December 31, 2008, contained a sketch mimicking the “gas stop scene”.[9] The scene where Anton Chigurh stops at a Texaco gas station, flips a coin and asks the proprietor to ‘call it’ was mimicked in a number of online sketches, including an independently-produced parody titled No Football for Old Men, starring Michael Cornacchia, Kirk Zipfel, and Luiggi Debiasse as Referee Anton Chigurh.[10]

In an article in March 2011, journalist William Russo stated that “Kevin Garnett compared himself and fellow Boston Celtics to characters in the classic caper film Ocean’s 11, [where Garnett] immediately identified himself as the old expert (played by Carl Reiner).” He added, “in fact, there are many old movies [Garnett] might find himself emulating [including] No Country for Old Men: In rural Boston, welder and hunter Llewelyn Moss (Kevin Garnett) discovers the remains of playoff teams who have all killed each other in an exchange gone violently wrong. This puts the psychopathic killer, Anton Chigurh (LeBron James, [of the Miami Heat ]), on his trail. Meanwhile, the laconic Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Ray Allen) and his deputy (Paul Pierce) blithely oversee the investigation even as they struggle to face the sheer enormity of winning a second championship while the clock winds down.” [11] Chris Bernucca adds that “in a league that quickly is becoming no country for old men, they are too something – determined, proud, stubborn, entitled – to simply move aside and let the young whippersnappers blow past them. Instead, they are trying to get everyone else to slow the heck down so they can keep up. You know that old adage about enjoying the journey? That’s not the Celtics, who are just trying to survive the trek in one piece and get to their destination. They don’t give a rat’s asterisk whom they inconvenience, annoy or aggravate along the way.” [12]

References[edit]

  1. ^ DuBos, David. "MovieTalk with David DuBos". New Orleans Magazine. Archived from the original on February 7, 2008. Retrieved March 13, 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c "Chigurh Trivia". Anton Chigurh.com. 2012-03-24. Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  3. ^ a b "Chigurh Bio". Imdb. 2012-03-24. Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  4. ^ "UGO.com 11 Silver Screen Psychos". UGO.com. 2012-03-24. Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  5. ^ "Empire 100 Greatest Movie Characters". Empire.com. 2012-03-24. Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  6. ^ "There Will Be Milkshakes for Old Men". NBC.com. Retrieved May 12, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Saturday Night Live Drinks Your Milkshake". BuzzSugar.com. March 26, 2008. 
  8. ^ "Saturday Night Live – SNL Digital Short: Grandkids in the Movies". Bing.com/videos. Retrieved May 12, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Parodia de ‘NO ES PAIS PARA VIEJOS’ del programa Es Bello Vivir 31/12/2008". YouTube. January 2, 2009. 
  10. ^ "No Football for Old Men". YouTube. November 24, 2009. 
  11. ^ Russo, William (March 17, 2011). "Kevin Garnett's Movie Parallels: Boston Celtics Plot Thickens". BleacherReport.com. 
  12. ^ Bernucca, Chris (March 21, 2012). "Bernucca: Celtics hope slow and steady wins the race". SheridanHoops.com. 

Further reading[edit]

  • 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 0-313-35599-1. 

External links[edit]