Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Dead End World of The Counselor (4 stars)

The Counselor, played by Michael Fassbender, was a man so in love with Laura (Penelope Cruz), that he literally suffered from temporary insanity, brought on by hubris and greed, in getting involved with a drug cartel for a one shot deal at millions of dollars. The counselor was warned over, and over, and over again, by criminal elements who were so eloquent in their description of the drug world, but the warnings were ignored, and eventually regretted with great devastation. In Ridley Scott's film written by Cormac McCarthy, we see how an overly confident and arrogant dashing young lawyer thinks he can just dip his toes into a drug deal, and come out as clean as he went in and live the high-life like that of the low-lifes he has provided legal assistance to.

In this dangerous world of cocaine smuggling along the Mexican border, The Counselor has a soap opera style to it in highlighting the glamorous way that the pretty sexy people enjoy the fruits of their illegal labor. But simmering underneath the sexy, is a cold brutal paranoia that even Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Westray (Brad Pitt) try to convey to the counselor. They sense a slight apprehension in him, which is really just the counselor's conceited naivete, and then the chess pieces are set into place for the drug deal to occur. However, Malkina (Cameron Diaz), a cheetah obsessed sociopath, is so morally corrupt and predator like, that Reiner really has no idea how dangerous she is and the personal risks involved in this new deal. The counselor is once more reminded about what he's about to get in to, and he is told in no uncertain terms about an excruciating method of death that befalls double-crossers, and how snuff films have been made on the innocent by standers. Nope, still not fazed, he has to cover the $200,000 cost for Laura's diamond ring (purchased in Amsterdam), and his back is against the wall financially, so he sexily sips on his Bloody Mary and confirms he's in. Meanwhile, the other players in the transporting of the drugs set the wheels in motion of decapitating a drug runner on his motorcycle, and then steal the truck with the cocaine. With the truck missing along with the drugs, there's only one person to blame: The handsome, greedy, stupid counselor, how convenient.

It is made perfectly clear to the counselor that shit has hit the fan and there is no option for apologies or explanations, this world he walked in to is his world now and forever. He tips off Laura to get out of town and he would soon follow her, but the double-crossers are two steps ahead because they planned this all the long. The counselor was the fall guy, the pawn, he never had a chance to earn the millions he so greedily wanted, and his girlfriend was the sacrificial lamb to teach him a lesson about playing with evil. In a last ditch effort to seek help and advice, the counselor receives only poetic wisdom from Jefe (Rueben Blades) who tells him that the only way his new world will end is when he dies. As all the key players meet horrible deaths, in a Mexican hotel room dripping with grief and despair, the counselor receives a package that makes him lose his mind and all hope; this was foretold to him and he knew exactly what it meant. His greed, arrogance and ignorance cost him the only good thing in his life. And that is the moral of this story, you play with fire, your whole world will burn.

The Counselor had several scenes that were brutally bloody, but it's also the scenes that we did not see that were equally as terrifying. The concept of a snuff film should automatically send chills down your spine, but short of watching one, knowing what such a film features is enough to horrify a decent person. The dialogue in the film made the principal characters seem more educated and intelligent than the usual depraved drug smugglers, and that also is a testament as to how much more cruel they could be too; the smarter you are, the more devious you are. I think the discourse of most of the conversations may prove to be too high-brow for some audiences (ie. chatty), and that is perhaps why some people don't like it. To them, it doesn't make sense because you know what... you have to pay attention to what they are saying because the dialogue spells out what is happening, and what is going to happen, and why. As in 'No Country for Old Men' and 'The Road', Cormac McCarthy yet again shows how desperate people can make very bad decisions, as well as how brutally cold and evil people are. In her limited screen time, Penelope Cruz was fine, and Javier Bardem was great as well. Brad Pitt was good as a shady character who was paranoid, and he had every right to be. A lot of criticism has attacked Cameron Diaz' performance as Malkina, but for a sexy, jaded, ruthless, narcissist, Cameron looked great and did a find job with Malkina. As usual, Michael Fassbender was fantastic. His character was never named, he was just referred to as the counselor. He started out as beautiful and successful, and ended up with absolutely nothing. His final scene was wrecked with such emotion and it left you wondering, what would eventually happen to him. The drug cartel already destroyed him, the rest of his life will be utter misery knowing that he knocked down the first domino that changed his world.

Not all movies should end nicely wrapped up to please an audience used to being spoon fed. There's no harm in thinking for yourself and speculating about what happens with certain characters. With a seasoned director like Ridley Scott, and a Pulitzer Prize winning writer, The Counselor script was deliberately written as is, the characters deliberately presented as is (these are not normal people), with a plot narrative that strives to be different than your regular drug cartel type film. For those who enjoy a thinking person's crime drama filled to the gills with despicable people and disgusting acts, The Counselor may be your kind of film.

Grade: 4 out of 5

ps. I had a great time with Myriam in watching the film with her, talking fassy politics & gossip, and eating sushi afterwards!


Simone said...

Here are some (10) rating comments from metacrtic fans:

Rekkr Oct 25, 2013 10 In my ever-humble opinion, this is a saddening example of metacritic's inevitable deception. Many will see the generally unfavorable reception towards this film and write it off without the blink of an eye.

Now I am in no way saying that my opinion is absolute (it so clearly is not), and I would also like to point out that I do not throw around 10-ratings lightly.
This film is, without a doubt, one of the most brilliant films I have seen in years.
Ridley Scott is an artist with a 'true vision', and I will not argue that it requires one to be on a certain wavelength in order to perceive this vision (I do not mean to sound pretentious).
Every inch of Cormac McCarthy's dialogue is profoundly thought-provoking and unknowingly exposing,
and the performances are brilliant to the point of the cast's A-list status coming off as a mere coincidental detail. Fassbender, Pitt, Diaz, Bardem, and Cruz all exhibit the same fearless resolve as Scott on the other side of the lense.
Despite common criticism of the film's 'lack of cohesion' or 'identity confusion', I assert that this film's self-identity is actually stronger than most. Those who cannot recognize this cannot see the forest for the trees. Those who are not familiar with a more 'Art-house' approach to film-making/story-telling will most likely end up alienated. This movie makes no attempt to ease viewers into its twisted and bizarrely real world, and that is ENTIRELY intentional.

Again, I do not mean to sound aggressive towards those many who dislike this film.
I simply wanted to present my personal appreciation for this film which I consider monumental, and for those intrigued but disenchanted by the negative reception to persevere until they can form their own opinion.

z0rzzz Oct 25, 2013 10 A MUST SEE MOVIE. you will probably leave stunned at what you have just seen as you still be taking it all in. this is not only a well directed movie, but also a set of very phenomenal philosophical ideas and points of view. the cast is filled with great stars (as you already know) and bad ass attire that is just enviable. this is not your ordinary walk in the park action movie or movie in general. this is a real work of art that will make you cringe, ponder, and want to become a director or a writer. simply said if you are not a drone like individual and gravitate more towards intellectual and unique movies/stories this movie is for you.

ciandonovan Oct 26, 2013 10 Great movie and well-acted! It's mind-boggling how some could say that it is crap. Compared to other movies which were rated high or higher, The Counselor has more depth. But, it'snot a feel good or happy ending movie because it projects reality.

The following critics gave The Counselor 100 scores:

Tampa Bay Times
New York Times
Chicago-Sun Times

Martha said...

4 out of 5 Stars from me. First off it was a really interesting story. It did really keep me guessing as to what was gonna happen. Well I guess we all knew it would not end well. It's more how it happened. And how the characters all fit in at the end was what surprised me the most.

Yeah, I guess there are people out there that have an end goal and they don't care how they get there or who they burn in the process.

I can understand a bit of the criticism but I don't think this movie as as bad as some people are making it out to be.

Mostly people just want to be told every aspect of what is being projected. Who cares! Some things don't have answers, they just are.

Like the guy that is touring the world (if you've seen it you know). I mean how random is that. Why? That is even weirder. The answer can really just be, the powers that be want it that way. They don't have to have a reason. They are in power and it's just what strikes their fancy for the time being.

A lot of the times I can see what will happen before it happens. This time I did not. The only thing I guessed is that it would not end well for Laura, and she didn't even do anything! I felt sorry for all the people involved as none of them knew what they were getting themselves into.

So I liked the movie for the story and I enjoyed all of the glorious shots of Michael. All in all there are movies out there that will get more box office results because people just don't want to be bothered with something that you actually have to pay attention to. Dumb people…

Hodgepodge Shop said...

Scott Foundas (Variety Oct. 28) writes: "Why ‘The Counselor’ Is One of Ridley Scott’s Best Films". The intro says: "Rejected by critics and audiences, this bold, thrilling noir shows just how little appetite there is for real daring at the multiplex nowadays."

Hodgepodge Shop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hodgepodge Shop said...

One should not just look at summary ratings (rotten tomatoes, etc.), but has to read the reviews. You'll find so many biased or shallow reviews because the "Putting down" of Scott's film has become a fad, many joined the bandwagon via Influence. Reading the contents of positive and negative reviews, I'l give more weight to the positives; they were clearly not swayed by the fad.

In the end, The Counselor seems to be the most discussed film nowadays. That's the film! It tickles the analytic mind and invites discussion,debate,argument. In the future, this, now generally under received, film will become a classic!

Simone said...

I don't bother to read the negative reviews because they tell me nothing. Usually they are immature rants by both critics and common film goers who completely misunderstood a film, and were not spoonfed the film as they are accustomed to. What i find puzzling is that the people who normally would have gone to see this film because it was directed by Scott, written by McCarthy, and starring a host of A-listers, including hot boy of the moment, Fassbender, that these people were swayed by negative criticism.

I sensed the film would be polarizing, but not to this extent. It's my hopes that as people take a moment to read the positive reviews, and there are some fantastic reviews out there, that they take the time and give the film a fair shake. Otherwise, it may recover its reputation on DVD and those who couldn't bother to go see it at the theater will then realize what a great film it is.

Critics know they are powerful and many are abusing their film reviewing profession to control the profitability of a film, and I reckon many have ulterior motives from competing studios. That's just my theory. Otherwise, how can you explain the polar opposite critiques of one film that is not your average film, but one that takes actual intellect to follow, understand, and be completely absorbed into it.

Too many people just enjoy having the power to tear down a piece of art.

Vera said...

I personally never read the reviews before going to see any film, because I feel like I need to form my own opinion first and only then to agree or to disagree with critics or other filmgoers. To my mind, if you read a review first, whether positive or not, you will be a bit prejudiced anyway.

Am planning to see The Counselor this Sunday.

dianne said...

Saw the counselor today, and I enjoyed it very much! There are 2 particular scenes that I loved where the conversation about diamonds, and the last conversation of the counselor and this Mexican guy (I can’t remember his name), about flaws. I read somewhere that this movie is like the lesson of the Faust, and it truly is! Michael looked amazing throughout the movie…so damn sexy!! :-) and of course without no doubt his portrayal of The Counselor was 5 stars!

Vera said...

Saw The Counselor today. It left me with controversial thoughts. If I were to say two words about it, I would choose dark and powerful. And sexy. The story envelopes you and doesn't let go until the last minute.

And the scene with the DVD disc just can't get out of my mind. Michael's performance was stunning. And I wish to see it undubbed as well as I can imagine how it all sounded in his voice and it gives me chills.
4 out of 5 for me.

Simone said...

Dianne and Vera, thanks for your feedback on the film, I'm glad you both enjoyed it very much.