BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
NOVEMBER 3, 2013
Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy team up to deliver “The Counselor,” one of the most underrated ensemble dramas of the year. McCarthy, an 80-year-old Pultizer Prize-winning author (“No Country For Old Men,” “The Road”) is no stranger to the cinema, with both adaptations mentioned receiving acclaim across the board. “The Counselor” marks McCarthy’s first venture into an original screenplay, however. Those that have read the unabridged screenplay say it reads like one of his novels and you get a hint of that in the feature film version. With an outstanding ensemble including Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, and Penelope Cruz, the cast does their very best to get the thick dialogue/monologues to play across the screen, a venture to which the average viewer will shut down or turn off. Even critics pan the film as being a misfire on all accounts. I’m in the minority, however, that found the film captivating, with sex, violence, and situational drama running rampant.
Fassbender is undeniably outstanding to watch, delivering on a scale we haven’t yet seen in Hollywood for decades. Pitt and Bardem add the perfect supporting layer to Fassbender’s performance, both on different sides of the dramatic spectrum. Cruz is sadly just a female pawn in the game but does so with enough poise and grace to keep her role from feeling too unneeded, while the real star becomes Cameron Diaz, who turns off all pith and goofy charm to deliver a cold-faced portrayal of a strong female. McCarthy’s script feels like a play, setting up different situations that often interconnect and I strongly feel a second viewing of the film is needed to appreciate all the film has to offer.
Often the portions people may not understand are discussed in dialogue in previous scenes, like the wire noose connected to a timer used to kill a character or the meaning of the DVD that Fassbender’s character receives at the end of the film. There’s even an exchange that will make my best-of list at the end of the year, involving Bardem’s explanation of a moment that will haunt him forever, involving the female anatomy and a yellow Ferrari. McCarthy builds several deep and rich characters and has a way with dialogue that chills. Agreed, this isn’t “No Country For Old Men,” but that aside, the film has so much going for it, it’s hard to justify all the negative press. “The Counselor” will not land on anyone’s best of the year list, but it does deliver to those willing to invest.
October 25, 2013
20th Century Fox
(for graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content and language)
Paula Mae Schwartz