This last weekend I had a chance at a Tommy Lee Jones trifecta. When I finished film No. 3 I was tempted to go for trifecta plus one (I have no idea how to say that) but time ran out.
The movie that started me down this path was “The Missing.” I happened upon it while surfing movie channels on Friday night — Marcia had long since gone off to bed with her usual late-night admonition: “Don’t stay up all night watching some old movie bowser.” Bowser is Marcia’s unflattering way of describing a film more than a year or two old. Naturally, I didn’t take her advice and stayed up until the wee hours of Saturday morning watching Lee’s 2003 western about frontier medicine woman Magdalena (Cate Blanchett), her absurdly unpleasant teenage daughter Lilly (Evan Rachel Wood) and her estranged wanna-be Native American father Samuel/Chaa-duu-ba-its-iidan (Jones.) This two-hour-plus film finds Samuel redeeming himself by leading a grueling and gruesome rescue mission to free Lilly from a beyond-weird white slaver/brujo (shaman or sorcerer) played frighteningly by Eric Schweig. Jones is at his best playing a surly, laconic, silent, non-caped crusader who understands the way of the Indians he is pursuing. Samuel might as well have been the cop Jones frequently plays — unemotional and unrelenting. While as a daddy Samuel left much to be desired, as an open-range pursuer he is perfect. Magdalena has no place in her heart for the father who disserted her. She does ultimately reconcile with him over his lifeless body — after he single-handedly rescues his recently met granddaughter from evil incarnate. Great story, lots of action and scary moments. Jones was the ultimate bad-ass good guy. “The Missing” is available in the watch instantly section of Netflix.
Movie No. 2 was “U.S. Marshals.” This 1998 Jones classic features Jones as an aging chief deputy marshal who has to prove himself worthy of keeping his job. To accomplish this feat, Jones’ character Samuel Gerard must survive the crash of a 727 prisoner transport in which he saves the lives of a large group of hardened asocials when their plane ends up bottom-up in a river in the middle of the night.
Gerard is up to the task, but misplaces double murderer and national security bad guy Mark Sheridan (Wesley Snipes). Although Gerard saves virtually everyone by himself, the escape of Sheridan casts doubt on Gerard’s adequacy and throws the whole story into a frenzied “who are the real bad guys?” plot. This film is more than a little convoluted, with Gerard chasing a murderer/national security risk criminal through the swamps of God-knows-where and around the swamps of the Big Apple.
Snipes plays his part well, determined to prove his innocence and win a future as a free man in love with a beautiful French Starbuck’s barista played by Irene Jacob. I hope that you were lucky enough to see Jacob in the “Red” segment of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s masterpiece colors trilogy. Jacob’s role in “U.S. Marshals” was slightly more than window dressing, but Irene Jacobs can really dress a window. “U.S. Marshals” also features a young Robert Downey Jr. playing special agent (actually double agent) John Royce.
I won’t ruin this complex plot by saying more. Tommy Lee Jones is again a bad-ass good guy. No. 2, “U.S. Marshals,” is also available from Netflix.
I topped off this Jones immersion weekend with the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece “No Country for Old Men” (2007). As aging, burned-out sheriff Ed Tom Bell, Jones finds himself up against clever and devilishly frightening killer Anton Chigurh, played masterfully by Javier Bardem. Bardem won an Academy Award for this portrayal — I actually had nightmares about this film for some time after seeing it in 2007. Bardem’s portrayal of Chigurh was reminiscent of Schwiegs portrayal of the brujo in “The Missing.” Once again, Jones is laconic, stoic and unflappable, another bad-ass good guy role. No. 3, “No Country for Old Men,” is also available from Netflix.
If this kind of part seems familiar for Jones — it is. How about his portrayal of Hank Deerfield in “In the Valley of Elah” (2007). He plays a comic bad-ass good guy in “Men in Black” (1997).
While Tommy Lee Jones may be typecast in most of his movies, I like him as an actor and wish I could half as much a bad-ass good guy in real life.