Pure nihilism from the Coens. Like all their films, there is always the feeling that they have achieved exactly what they set out to achieve. The craft always shows. But in the case of this particular film, like its predecessor Barton Fink, the parade of grotesque humans, and the assertion of meaninglessness, started to grate on me. I think the Coens are at their best--and several of their films are among my absolute favorites--when they are working within certain genres--detective stories, kidnap thrillers, westerns. The closer they get to their own imaginations the less willing they are to allow any humanity to seep through.
There are no Coen movies without pleasures. Carter Burwell produces another good score, and the cinematography by Roger Deakins is allowed to shine through in several scenes, most notably in the final shot, when the black cloud of death approaches to put us all out of our misery.