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The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Tommy Lee Jones (2005)

Very macho movie about a tough cowboy (Jones, under his own direction) who promises his Mexican friend and coworker (Julio Cedillo) that he’ll take him back to his village in Mexico for burial if he should happen to die. Sure enough, he does, shot in a stupid accident by a racist jerk of a border patrolman (Barry Pepper). All that comes pretty early on. The bulk of the movie consists of Jones carrying the putrefying body of his friend back to Mexico with the shackled, barefoot, sunburned, snake-bitten Pepper in tow. Lessons are learned about the value of life and friendship.

Early on, Jones tries to get a little fancy on the other side of the camera, moving around in time ala Pulp Fiction and trying to get some separate storylines going ala Lone Star, but there’s no good reason for the former and he can’t sustain the latter, and he wisely simplifies once the main part of the story gets underway.

It’s all a bit dull, but I did like:

  • the amazing sunset-lit landscapes of south Texas
  • the implicit anti-anti-immigrant politics (Jones speaks passable Spanish throughout and reaps great benefits thereby; the patrolman, of course, can speak none and has occasion to wish he could; the Border Patrol is shown to be generally corrupt and inept; there are no bad Mexicans and lots of good ones)
  • the wonderful truckstop beauty of Melissa Leo
  • the really, really funny Dwight Yoakam (!)
  • and–I truly apologize for this, but it’s true–January Jones, who does the trashy girl next door thing scary good. I’ve been ogling her on Mad Men this past week and now she coincidentally shows up in this ancient bit of sediment from my Netflix queue. Sometimes people come suddenly into your life for obscure but important reasons, or at least I hope so.

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