The Counselor - get rich or die trying.
Take a second to consider the unequivocal amount of talent involved in this film. The director is Ridley Scott, a man who made the genre defining masterpieces Blade Runner and Alien, the iconic girl power road movie Thelma & Louise and the memorable Gladiator, among many other films. The original screenplay is written by Cormac McCarthy, the Pulitzer Prize author of No Country for Old Men and The Road (both adapted to the screen) and Blood Meridian, who some call “the greatest American novel of the past thirty years”. The cast is stellar also: Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz and Brad Pitt. This sort of conjuring of talent is certainly enough to merit a viewing. And it is absolutely worth it, fascinating even, despite being a flawed film. Think of it as a Faustian tale, brewed with some Michael Mann and Jim Jarmusch mannerisms (seen Limits of Control? probably not, so watch it before you dismiss the comparison), served in a David Mamet cold plate. That means it’s dark, stylish and verbose.
The writer is clearly the auteur here, as Scott avoids doing anything fancy that might distract you from what the actors are saying. The story and the dialogue are sometimes needlessly opaque and somewhat mechanical. And what McCarthy is saying is that we are all sitting ducks. If you think for a minute that you are the smartest guy in the room, it’s not going to end well for you. This is the Counselor, of course, played by Fassbender, who doesn’t have much to do here besides yearning, listening and suffering. There are forces beyond him, that strike down with furious anger, leaving no stone unturned. In this case, they are the drug cartels, whose faces are forgettable and interchangeable, as they all are just agents of a cancerous organism.
There are some who navigate this world with some ease, of course, but you can sense they won’t last, unless they become the hunter themselves. This is Cameron Diaz’s character, Malkina. Diaz truly shines here, a femme fatale for the ages, channeling the sexual allure of Ellen Barkin. There are some stories circulating that she originally did a thick Barbados accent, but was later forced to record her lines without it by the studio, as it tested badly. If this is true, she might have been robbed of an Oscar nomination. Bardem has a lot of fun here, thanks to Diaz mainly, in a brilliantly weird and wonderfully choreographed sex scene with a car. Yes, sex with a car. It’s a yellow Ferrari California, by the way.
It’s probably the last film you expect coming from mainstream Hollywood these days. And it deserves an audience that it may not get.
Rating 7 out of 10
The Counselor (2013) // Director: Ridley Scott // Writer: Cormac McCarthy // Cast: Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz and Brad Pitt // Cinematographer: Darisuz Wolski // Music: Daniel Pemberton
Review by Nuno Sá Montenegro