Shot and dumped in a shallow grave, when the body of Melquiades Estrada is discovered the local police dismiss the murder as just another Mexican migrant in the wrong place at the wrong time. The corpse is reburied in a pauper's grave. Case closed. But the victim's friend, ranch foreman Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones), knows different. He knows the murderer and vows to make him pay for his cold-blooded crime. No matter what it takes, Perkins is also determined he will keep his promise to return Estrada to his Mexican homeland where, at last, he will rest in peace...
Is it me? I should love it but...
- The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada review by Kurtz
...Why don’t I like this film more? It pushes all the right buttons in that it’s handsomely mounted with beautifully desolate settings, and it celebrates the triumph of friendship and loyalty shown by Tommy Lee Jones’ rancher to his dead friend over the callous indifference of the lawmen and particularly Barry Pepper’s racist border guard. And yet, and yet… after a promising opening which quickly sketches in the social tensions in a dead-end Texas town and shows us the roots of Jones’ character’s friendship with Estrada, Jones kidnaps Pepper and forces him to transport the hastily buried body of Estrada back to his Mexican homeland. And from then on it’s pretty much a two-hander with Pepper suffering all sorts of indignities and Jones setting world records for gruff dourness. For me, these two (Estrada, being dead, contributes little) make rather dull companions for the last forty minutes of the film and the faint hope of Pepper learning from his horrible experiences is all we are left with at the end- that and a palpable sense of relief that our journey, like Estrada’s, is over.
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Great film? No.
- The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada review by JD
In the bonus section Tommy Lee Jones admits that this is not a great film. I would agree. It has lots of character development, atmospheric cinematography and a steady plot. The acting is not great and I would suggest the direction suffers from having the director also playing the main character, (directing himself). This brand of Hollywood egoism is unfortunately not uncommon. The genre is unusual lying between detective drama, foreign interest (Mexican) and cowboy. Not a genre about to become more common, I hope.