Yes, I understood the film. I got the "evil triumphing over good" symbolism, the Biblical undertones and social commentary on modern society ... how someone on the street - bloodied from shotgun wounds - would only get blank stares from pedestrians, and even a half-finished bottle of beer (for comfort) would come with a price.
Unfortunately this bleakness is the tip of the iceberg when you factor in cold-as-ice psychopath Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), who massacres almost everyone in his path while in pursuit of $2.4 million from a drug deal gone bad. Because the film is supposed to be "symbolic", little is known about Anton and his connection to the money other than a shady guy in a high rise (played by Stephen Root), but even his motives are never clear. In addition, Anton's modus operandi makes it hard to believe he would associate with anyone. The violent lone wolf prevails at the end, and after the naive man who salvaged the money (Josh Brolin) is killed at a motel, Anton fulfills a perverted deal he made by visiting the man's newly widowed wife (Kelly MacDonald) and informing her of impending doom.
There is no problem with villains who succeed at the end. It has been done before. Whilst not the best example, Aaron Stampler from the novel/movie "Primal Fear". There's a sense of disgust and dread, but at the same time awe at how someone so evil (and yet so smart and clever) could override justice. But so little is known about Anton Chigurh that he comes off as nearly what Bell calls him - a "ghost". He's cunning and skillful, but no indication whether he's a survivalist, ex-Navy SEAL, renegade intelligence operative, etc. Credibility is totally thrown out the door for the viewer.
As for the themes: It has been done before. The vicious cycle of greed was portrayed perfectly in "Fargo", even in movies not from the Cohen brothers; Times have been changing in the criminal world for a long time, longer than Bell admits. Bell disregards the outlaws of the Old West, he disregards serial killers and bank robbers active around his early years, and most of all the national formation of the mob ...
The movie's performances are first rate, as is the sound editing and misleading appearance as a "suspense thriller". While not a bad film, the abruptness, clichés and lack of cinematic cohesion prevent a positive review.