MICHAEL FASSBENDER CAMERON DIAZ PENELOPE CRUZ JAVIER BARDEM BRAD PITT
It seems like in every Cormac McCarthy script there are one or two distinctive elements you will always remember; in No Country For Old Men there was the cow gun and the money, for The Road it was the boat, and without a doubt The Counselor will be the neck device and Diaz’s windshield pleasure. Ridley Scott and McCarthy deliver a film not about the consequences of getting involved with drug trafficking, but rather the destruction and loss of life associated. I wonder what came first, the conceptualizing of the memorable and elaborate death scenes or the idea of returning to the Texas/Mexico border’s drug problem that McCarthy seems so fascinated with.
A Lawyer in El Paso known as The Counselor (Fassbender) has decided to trade in his normal existence and life to gamble in drug trafficking. His fiancé Laura (Cruz) disapproves of his getting in the game and he receives cryptic warnings from his middle man buddy Westray (Pitt). Still, he proceeds because he sees the life and possibilities his friend Reiner (Bardem) is enjoying and he is greedy for more. “You don’t know someone until you know what they want,” he is told. When a coincidence occurs and a shipment goes missing, it’s the new guy who is caught with no hand to deal.
You should already be prepared for the film's dark and sexually vulgar nature just based on the combination of Scott’s directing style, McCarthy’s twisted interests and the actors attached to the film. It’s really the actors here in these gritty roles that you are paying to see; like animals devouring raw pieces of meat, we watch them self-destruct for our own enjoyment. There is a very sexual tone here that wasn’t present in previous McCarthy scripts adapted for cinema and it really bolsters the already heightened tension.
Both Diaz and Bardem play characters somewhat outside of their normal comfort zones, and both are very equipped and effective. Bardem plays vulnerable with his spikey hair and overly tanned skin while Diaz, no stranger to a villainous role, lays it on quite thick. Fassbender and Cruz are merely pretty, popular faces to draw a crowd. Pitt’s colorful and well dressed middle man is memorable only because of his final scene, which, much like the rest of the script, seems only to exist purely for the violence. The Counselor never really makes a statement or leaves the audience with anything profound, it just looks really good in the process.
Final Thought – Style and substance don’t go hand in hand here.
By: Dustin Chase
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
The Counselor will keep viewers talking after the movie, not only about the methods of violence, but also about plot points. The story is tight, but some of the clues are so subtle, they can be missed. With a screenplay by Cormac McCarthy, we can expect to experience a certain amount of puzzlement, and we do expect to see creative violence; but underneath all this, McCarthy always has a point to make, and this time I think it is about greed. Not only does it corrupt the ones who get seduced by it, it sometimes takes along innocent ones in close proximity.
The clues about greed are sprinkled throughout The Counselor in the form of statements made in casual conversation, such as, “You don’t know someone until you know what they want” and “Grief transcends value; you are the world you have created.” In this last statement, he is referring to the regret expressed by a character whose greed has indirectly harmed someone he loves, someone whose place he would have preferred to take. Other clues are in the warnings made by characters to a newcomer in a partnership. Of course, the newcomer does not process the warnings until it is too late. Related to this is, “’No harm’ is a magical thought”—in the sense that doing no harm is frequently a fantasy.
The acting is impressive—it’s a stellar cast. But some of the actors are in different roles here. I got a huge kick out of Jarvier Bardem being a soft, slightly goofy character with spikey, coifed hair whose points are often vague, completely the opposite of the succinct, straight-hair Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. Likewise, Cameron Diaz’ character here is very different from her role in Bad Teacher. I wouldn’t have thought she could pull off the exotic Malkina, but she does. Michael Fassbender has played widely varying roles, and he is just as expert here as an attorney. The characters played by Brad Pitt and Penelope Cruz are not so different from their usual, but they are good as always.
Ridley Scott, the director, has had a long illustrious career in films, and his work in The Counselor will likely be considered noteworthy. Good cinematography and music contribute to the success of this film.