|THE COUNSELOR (director: Ridley Scott; screenwriter: Cormac McCarthy; cinematographer: Dariusz Wolski; editor: Pietro Scala; music: Daniel Pemberton; cast: Michael Fassbender (Counselor), Penelope Cruz (Laura), Cameron Diaz (Malkina), Javier Bardem (Reiner), Brad Pitt (Westray), Bruno Ganz (Diamond Dealer), Rosie Perez (Ruth), Sam Spruell (Wireman), Toby Kebbell (Tony), Edgar Ramirez (Priest ), Ruben Blades (Jefe), Natalie Dormer (Blonde), Goran Visnjic (Banker); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Paula Mae Schwartz/Nick Wechsler/Ridley Scott; Fox Films; 2013)|
generate a feeling that we are seeing something that
by Dennis Schwartz
filmmaker Ridley Scott ("Robin Hood"/"Body of
Lies"/"Prometheus") directs this pessimistic
nightmarish suspense thriller about a botched drug
deal with a vicious Mexican drug cartel and its fatal
consequences. It's aimed to show that crime is not for
all--certainly not for the titular lawyer, referred to
throughout the movie only as the Counselor (Michael Fassbender).
The Counselor gets greedy and partners with a
hedonistic weirdo goofy hair-styled fixer drug
kingpin, Reiner (Javier
Bardem), in a get rich quick scheme.
The Counselor has to oversee the cocaine shipment from
Colombia to Chicago in a septic-tank truck.
Counselor, a respected figure in his circle
but is naive in the criminal world. He's in
over his head and gets trapped in an ill-fated drug
deal that he can't resolve without dire consequences
for him and his innocent fiancee Laura (Penelope Cruz).
Meanwhile the bemused Reiner insanely
laughs it up with his smart but scheming bisexual
girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz), who once fucked
Reiner's Ferrari and immensely enjoys his two pet cheetahs who run without
leashes in the Texas-Mexican desert to hunt
prey (attention: a metaphor alert). The
mysterious Westray (Brad Pitt) is the philosophical
spouting pragmatic middle-man in the deal, who engages
in several long conversations with the Counselor to
let him know the smuggling operation is run by the
most ruthless people possible in a world that has
turned increasing uglier over time. To prove what the
middle-man says is true, there will be unleashed an
instrument of doom, a portable device that clamps around a
victim’s neck with a strand of unbreakable alloy
tightening until the head is severed from the body.
The mechanical means of assassination is deployed in
one of the key third act scenes, and might be
considered one of the film's morbid highlights.
passes for wit are lines like the “Truth has no temperature”
think you can live in this world and not be a part of
it?", which may or may not be witty but seemed
misplaced in such a murky film where nothing
intelligent resonates in such an unappealing chatty
and violent story.
It's clunky, too close to being misogynistic, too wordy (the actors are puppets seemingly mouthing the author's ideas) and it's too much absorbed with its amoral cutthroat characters to distance itself from their narrow world of violence and excessive pleasure. The 80-year-old Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men), writing his first original screenplay, creates a dark desert noir tale about betrayal, the amoral twists in capitalism and the gruesome consequences of a drug war, but his dark visions don't translate well onscreen and all the symbolic messages awkwardly stick out.
REVIEWED ON 10/25/2013 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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