Where do I begin? I'm still trying to remember all of it.
My buddy Jim noticed a gem for the time of this film. It's set in 1980.
When Anton and the Gas Station Proprietor (Gene Jones) exchange words . . . including the oft-seen "Friendo" line . . . he tells him about the quarter, made in 1958, as having travelled "22 years" to get directly to the clerk.
The basic point of attack is when Llewelyn finds the briefcase of money. We know that the rest of the main story will concern this batch of cash, as my friend Jim noted.
The focus of the 2nd act is retrieval of the money. Lew's beset by both parties searching for the money involved in the deal gone bad. The main concern, however, is Anton.
Anton sets out to retrieve this cash, and I feel the 2nd act probably begins around the point where he discover's Lew's VIN. Now he has a focus of who has this money.
Bell's character is concerned with reaching the end of his career. Bell is overwhelmed by the complexity and depravity of his time. His lineage is one of law enforcement - he's very concerned with stories of those enforcers. Many of them end badly. They're either killed or maimed. Bell's character serves as a partial witness to this story. The moments of calm flow around Bell. The end of the film is an abrupt recant of his dream from the previous sleep, to his wife, Loretta (Tess Harper). Bell is one of the few people to make it through the entire story alive.
By the way, Bell survived only because Anton let him survive . . . at the motel room where Lew met his end. Had Bell stumbled upon Anton, he would have become another law enforcement story abruptly ended in death. This is the end of that 2nd act . . . the point where Anton retrieves the money. Bell knew Anton had been there . . . or possibly still was there . . . by the busted lock. That's Anton's hallmark . . . the air gun.
It was the Mexican gang (which you don't really see because they're the standard vicious but less-adept group) that killed Lew. They got to him by chance of divining the information by the unsuspecting Agnes (Beth Grant), who happens to tell The Well Dressed Mexican (Roland Uribe) everything about Lew and his whereabouts while being helped her bags by a 'kind' stranger.
We assume Agnes died from "the cancer" . . . that was set off in a previous scenes when Agnes and her daughter, Carla Jean Moss (Kelly Macdonald) were en route to meet Lew.
This film focuses and plays with the ideas of fate and chance.
It was chance that returned Lew to the scene of the deal gone wrong . . . he felt odd compassion for the near-dead gangster in the truck. When Lew returned with the jug of water, that was his undoing.
My friend Jim believes that fate of death found Lew by mere discovery of the crime scene. Had he never opened the door and found the near-dead gangster, there would have been zero witnesses to who Lew was. I believe the more concrete part of Lew's fate was cemented in his return to the scene. Once they had his VIN, it was much easier to track him.
Anton's character will rank near the top of the all-time badasses in film.
Anton was consumed in the accounting of all the people involved in the deal gone wrong.
He was pretty crazy for his level of focus, but the man was a pure cold accountant. He only killed those that absolutely needed to die in some way or another. Very few who noticed Anton a little too closely were spared life. The Station Proprietor was one of the few.
There were members of the Mexican gang who got in Anton's way, such as those who were at the first motel where Lew briefly stayed (in Del Rio).
Anyone care to theorize if the portly trailer park Desert Aire Manager (Kathy Lamkin) was going to die? I believe she would have. We see that the attendant of the second hotel died (the place with the cat drinking the milk). I believe she was saved by the flush of a toilet.
The Kids (Josh Blaylock, Caleb Jones) obviously did not die, but Anton actually paid them to keep their mouths shut about his presence.
Carla died. This was apparent when Anton walked out of her house, checking his shoes. Perhaps if she played the coin flip game, she would have lived? She actually argued this chance out of Anton. Then, she refused to play. Apparently the odds are stacked against those who get the game. Refusal or incorrect choice apparently receives the outcome of their murder.
The Man Who Hires Wells (Stephen Root) died because Anton traced him from the credit card he probably retrieved from the corpse of Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson). I also assume the Nervous Accountant (Trent Moore), who was present at Man's death, to also be killed by Anton.
Basically, a lot of people died in Anton's quest to retrieve the money.
I was thrown off by Lew's family. It was not until the credits rolled that I realized the main character of the three men was Anton.
The 3rd act serves as a kind of other story. It's basically used by many to tie up loose ends. In this case, Bell's retirement and Anton's confrontation with Carla would roughly consist of that 3rd act.
I can't remember, but I believe the fake stack of 100s was the only stack of its kind, which was the only way Lew would have found the tracking device, once he realized Anton was way too adept at finding him.
I can't really remember a soundtrack to this film. The majority of the film has no musical accompaniment. I believe this to be a master's stroke. The absolute lack of music seems to propel the suspense to frightening heights. From the opening scenes with Anton and the Strangled Deputy (Zach Hopkins), Anton and the Station Proprietor . . . I was carried away with a most tense grip of terror, particularly whenever it was possible that Anton was present. I kept waiting for Anton in every shadow and corner of every scene. Anton was that bad-ass.
I am still fascinated by the overall theme of cause, effect, fate, and chance. It's not a perfect treatment, not bookended nor picture-book, but damn, that's where one can really get carried away.