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The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (DVD)

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As non-conforming and singular as it’s director (Tommy Lee Jones, making his feature directorial debut, he directed a telemovie a few years back called “The Good Ol’ Boys”), but as brilliant too, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” is the ultimate in anti-Hollywood: staggeringly unflashy, hugely character-driven, widely open to construal, and ultimately, agreeably real.


Tommy Lee Jones, Barry Pepper, Julio César Cedillo, January Jones, Dwight Yoakam, Melissa Leo

It’s long, vague, perplexing, striving and hasty – but don’t let a silly little thing like a ‘movie title’ put you off (though, I bet it does) a perfectly good movie.

As non-conforming and singular as it’s director (Tommy Lee Jones, making his feature directorial debut, he directed a telemovie a few years back called “The Good Ol’ Boys”), but as brilliant too, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” is the ultimate in anti-Hollywood: staggeringly unflashy, hugely character-driven, widely open to construal, and ultimately, agreeably real.

If mullet-haired Tom Hanks cracking puzzle books bored, Wolverine’s claws were too blunt, and “Mission: Impossible” just ‘too much Cruise’, then you’ll appreciate this one. It’s a solid film indeed. The performances are amazingly good; the locations are exquisite, and its message – as inspiring as they are unexpected.

A whodunit-of-sorts, the film stars Jones as a ranch foreman honouring his late friend, illegal immigrant Melquiades (Julio César Cedillo), appeal to be buried in his native Mexico should he give up the ghost in Texas. Meantime, one of the new Border Patrol boys (Barry Pepper) is about to get to know the late man, a hell of a lot better.

As you’ll have worked out for yourself, I don’t want to give up too much about the film. Part of its appeal is letting the story unfold for itself.

As a director, Jones is surprisingly proficient – showing both creativity and nads behind the lens, at times shooting sequences that would turn John Sayles or Sam Peckinpah to mush. He always puts the story before anything else (unlike a lot of the films he’s been in himself), and the film is better for it. He might have worked harder on the first act (the back-forward shift between ‘then’ and ‘now’ may be confusing to some viewers), might’ve humanized the villain a tad more, and possibly retained the same tone for the overall picture (in contrast to switching from thriller to black comedy, three quarters the way through), but overall, it’s a terrific debut.

They don’t make ‘em like they use to – something Tommy Lee Jones obviously agrees with. If you can’t the stand the embarrassment of trying to pronounce the title to the cashier, buy yourself a ticket.

The Zone 4 DVD is actually pretty damn good, especially compared to the release that some of the other territories received. Among the extras are a making-of, a bit on the soundtrack, interviews, deleted scenes, footage from the premiere and a commentary by Tommy Lee Jones, Dwight Yoakam and January Jones. The track isn’t the best; in fact it’s a bit dull. There’s too much dead-air between topics of conversation to really captivate you, and consequently, the trio have little to offer besides back-slapping each other on a “job well done”.

Rating:
Reviewer : Clint Morris

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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