Tonight you can catch Tommy Lee Jones in two films, Rules of Engagement (9pm, Sky1)
and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (11:55pm, BBC2)
. A longtime fan of the craggy, Oscar-winning Texan, I seized the chance to revisit my DVD collection and embarked on the difficult task of selecting my favourite Jones movies… 5. In the Valley of Elah
Hank Deerfield: “That’s how you fight monsters. You lure ’em in close to you, you look ’em in the eye, you smack ’em down.”
Former soldier Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones) is plunged into a waking nightmare when his son, Mike, is reported AWOL from his US army base. The subsequent discovery of his burnt and dismembered body leads to a struggle for jurisdiction between tenacious detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron) and the military police, who don’t seem keen on digging too deep when it comes to solving the crime. Tortured by the memory of his son’s emotional last phone call – in which Mike asked for his father’s help but was rebuffed – Hank embarks on his own investigation, burying his emotions in dogged pursuit of the facts. But a series of terse exchanges with wife Joan (Susan Sarandon) hint at the true depth of his despair. The role earned Jones an Oscar nomination for best actor.
4. Men in Black
K: “1500 years ago everybody knew
the Earth was the centre of the universe. 500 years ago everybody knew
the Earth was flat. And 15 minutes ago you knew that people were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”
New York detective James Edwards (Will Smith) is recruited to join the Men in Black, a top secret government agency monitoring alien activity on Earth. His mentor is Agent K (Jones), a gruff old-timer with a heart of gold. The two actors create a winning buddy-buddy partnership – Smith being one of the apparently select group of actors to get along famously with the notoriously prickly Jones – making the unexpected ending all the more poignant.
3. No Country for Old Men
Sheriff Ed Tom Bell: “The crime you see now, it’s hard to even take its measure. It’s not that I’m afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. But, I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand. Man’d have to put his soul at hazard. He’d have to say, ‘OK. I’ll be part of this world.’”
When hunter Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) makes off with a case full of cash linked to a drugs deal gone bad, it’s not the police he has to worry about. Psychopathic killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) leaves a trail of bodies in his wake in pursuit of the money – and the man who stole it. World-weary sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is on the case, trying to get to Llewelyn before Chigurh does. The frequently horrific nature of the film is offset by Bell’s dry wit and the opportunities for humour offered by the – let’s say “relaxed” - pace of policing in 1980s rural Texas. Bell’s dogged dedication to the job, despite the relentless violence he encounters along the way, is touching - but will his down-home charm be up to the challenge of the changing face of crime?
2. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Pete Perkins: “We’ll get you home pretty soon, Melquaides. Any day now. [Pause] You look like hell, son.”
Texas ranch foreman Pete Perkins (Jones) faces an uphill struggle for justice when his friend, Mexican cowboy Melquiades Estrada, is found shot dead. The local sheriff couldn’t care less, so it’s up to Pete to track down Melquiades’s accidental killer, arrogant border patrolman Mike Norton (Barry Pepper). Determined to honour his friend’s final wish – to be buried in Mexico – Pete kidnaps Mike, forces him to dig up Melquiades’s mouldering corpse and the pair set off (Mike under some duress) to find Mel’s home town. This effective study of male friendship, respect and retribution, with wonderful flashes of dark humour, played out against a backdrop of terrain as rugged as Pete himself. Jones won best actor at Cannes for his portrayal of the laconic rancher in his feature directorial debut.
1. The Fugitive
Sam Gerard: “Your fugitive’s name is Dr Richard Kimble. Go get him.”
Vascular surgeon Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford), framed for his wife’s murder, goes on the run to track down the real killer. On his trail is uncompromising, flinty-eyed US Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones). The desperate game of cat and mouse is leavened by the lawman’s sharp sense of humour, as he challenges authority figures and bickers with his long-suffering colleagues. Universally acknowledged to have stolen the show, Jones’s portrayal of Gerard won him an Oscar for best supporting actor.
Do you agree with my choices? Perhaps you preferred Jones’s turn as gruff pilot Hawk in Space Cowboys, or thought he made a memorable villain in Batman Forever? Let me know in the comments below…