‘The Counselor’: Review

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I’m still trying to wrap my head around this film, granted I just finished seeing it a few hours ago, but it’s rattling around in there. There is a lot of things the film does really, well but conversely so many bad and on-the-nose dialogue, proliferating and acting. I’m going to get into all that, don’t you worry, but as always I must set the timeline with me and this film. Basically, however long ago that was, it was announced that Cormac McCarthy was having his first screenplay adapted by Ridley Scott. I shouldn’t have to tell you how legendary McCarthy is, but I’m going to spew it all out because I like talking about how great and badass he is. Now know in the current mainstream lexicon because of his fantastic books No Country For Old Men and The Road being adapted from masterful books into fantastic films, one of which cleaned up at the Oscars in 2007 (even though There Will Be Blood should’ve won best picture, but that’s a debate for another day). But, yeah, before all this movie nonsense, the great American novelist was cranking out masterpiece after masterpiece, all on a typewrite, and just continually being the biggest badass whoever pushed a key. Ridley Scott directing a Cormac McCarthy script, starring Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt? Goddamn, please inject this film into my veins at once!!! And then the reviews came out… and people (critics) really didn’t like it, that never sways me, but instead always makes me more curious to what the hell is up, and how this film could possibly be anything south of the border. So, indeed I saw it…

Like I teased above, there’s so much good and bad in the same film, that it’s entirely hard to parse what exactly this film is, how serious it intends to be, because it’s not all that clear how seriously I should be taking it. This film is ridiculous. There’s goddamn cheetahs just hanging out at a mansion, an insane beheading device, pretty much a bunch of beheadings, Javier Bardem playing another insane character with weird hair, Natalie Dormer being gorgeous, Michael Fassbender’s panty dropping smile and Dean Norris and John Leguizamo popping up for one random scene, and oh yeah, CAMERON DIAZ RUBS HER VAGINA ON THE WINDSHIELD OF A FERRARI. Yes, you read those capital letters correctly, I’d always hoped to type those words, but never thought I’d be able to in truth. I don’t want to talk about it too much, because I’ve already spoiled it, but Jesus, it’s weird, and insane, and hilarious, and not sexy, and oh so McCarthy. It’s one of several McCarthyisms in this film, duh, but it’s just so insane that of course this is a McCarthy script. There also may or may not be this insane wire beheading device that when looped around a persons neck, impending death is ordered as the metal alloy is too strong to break, as it quickly contracts and beheads you. McCarthyisms.

Interspersed throughout the whole film, and randomly into plot driven dialogue sequences, there always seems a devolution into a incessantly forced and on-the-nose discussion and reference to proliferation of philosophy and trying to get really deep almost existential. It’s always so way out of left field, and incredibly on-the-nose that it makes you roll your eyes and make you silently yell in your brain “YES, I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING, CORMAC, IMPLEMENTING YOUR WORLD VIEW AND BELIEFS INTO ME THOUGH THESE CHARACTERS SO UN-REALISTC CONVERSATIONS WITH EACH OTHER.” Simple dialogue exchanges will stretch five minutes too long, because after all the plot stuff is ironed out, they yammer on about life, and lessons and what everything means. This type of stuff is good and expected in films like this, but it’s so obvious, over-the-top and clear-cut that it just seems like a lesson, and I’m not expecting school when I see this on the weekend.

The great McCarthy theme of all his works, in my opinion, is the helplessness of destiny or circumstance (depending on whether you believe in God or not). McCarthy will never carve out a happy ending, just because that’s what typical novels or movies would do. No, if somebody fucked up and deserves to die, no matter what their position as lead character or actor, they will die or suffer the consequences they deserve. There is no playing favourites, and McCarthy’s works always thrive because they play off the inevitable and the expected. What you thought will never happen, often does, because that’s the correct A-B method, not the A-C method where everybody ends the film happy and drinking margaritas. Every character in the film gets in over their head, and as much as they try to fight it, as much as “No, this will never happen to me, I’m different” and everything gets them in the end. Nobody is special, and nobody receives special treatment because of who they are. Through sets of circumstances, Fassbender’s character gets in increasingly deeper water until he can’t handle anything anymore, everything is out of his reach, and there’s no life preserver to rescue him. He’s all alone from his own actions, and nobody there to help, one for all, one for all. Mistakes, circumstance, luck, death happen all around us, often they swing in our favour, but often they swing the other way, and there’s very much little we can do about it. It’s the hardest thing in the world to accept any of these things, the numerous characters in The Counselor never did, and conversely found themselves in their own personal dark hole.

I’m so much in love with Javier Bardem’s decision in acting choices know where he often gravitates to an insanely eccentric dude with even crazier hair, and he’s all the much better for it. You can always see how much fun he’s having in these roles, chiefly No Country For Old Men and Skyfall, and he just inhabits that creepy villainous role. Also, dude has two pet cheetahs and has a bar in the trunk of his car. Michael Fassbender is so, so great as always, and constantly makes me question my sexuality, I MEAN HAVE YOU SEEN THAT SMILE. Penolope Cruz is such a great actress, but unfortunately she isn’t given much to do here besides be pretty, and of course she does that quite well. Brad Pitt is good in his semi-limited role, but has some fun on a sidewalk in one scene. And now we make it to Cameron Diaz, hoo boy. Cameron Diaz is very bad in this movie, but increasingly entertaining to watch and see her find her way through this movie. She’s basically like on of those “real housewives” that you’d find on Bravo, mixed with Lady Macbeth into soap opera-y mechanisms. It’s impossible to take her serious as a mastermind, or as some kind of sex kitten that I’m supposed to be attracted to/impressed by. Also, she has a gold tooth, which, alright then.

This film is insane, I might have mentioned that before. There’s a ton of classic and great McCarthy themes and devices that seemingly frame what should be a great film, but then finds itself bogged down by extraneous, awkward and cheesy dialogue that is so obviously  pushing an agenda of “HEY, THIS IS SOME DEEP PHILOSOPHICAL TALK ABOUT LIFE, DEATH AND EVERYTHING OUT OF OUR CONTROL. I kind of really need to watch this film again, and you should for the first time too. Cameron Diaz + her vagina + a Ferrari. Here is your ticket, good patron.

6.5/10

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