The Counselor ✮
by Glenn Lovell
Seated in a swank London restaurant femme fatale Cameron Diaz delivers a long, ludicrous speech about diamonds, jackrabbits and cowardice. Her dining partner, a wee bit incredulous, replies, “I think you’ve told me more than I wish to know.”
Our sentiments exactly.
The hopelessly overwritten crime melodrama “The Counselor” is an excellent reminder of why even our best novelists should be discouraged from writing for the movies. It was directed by Ridley Scott and written by Cormac McCarthy, whose books have been turned into a number of decent films, most notably the Oscar-winning “No Country for Old Men.” This one, written expressly for the screen, plays like outtakes from “No Country”; it’s full of idiosyncratic villains, nauseating violence (including a blood-gushing sidewalk garroting), and more than a few metaphor-laced asides that are supposed to bring to mind Javier Bardem’s memorable “What’s the most you ever lost on a coin toss?” gas-station speech.
Just so you don’t miss the connection, Bardem also appears here as a debauched restaurateur-drug dealer in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. He sports white shoes and teased, spiky hair and comes off as a South of the Border Caligula. Bardem is teamed with Diaz, who, with her gold tooth and tattoos, reminded me of a character out of a Tarantino farce. For distraction, the couple unleash their cheetahs on prairie jackrabbits. Oh, yes, and Diaz dry-humps the windshield of Bardem’s Ferrari.
This mess features Michael Fassbender as the title character, a lawyer in way over his head, Penélope Cruz as Fassbender’s clueless girlfriend, and Brad Pitt as a long-winded middleman who favors cowboy attire. The cast also includes Bruno Ganz, Rosie Perez and Rubén Blades. Blades, as a Mexican godfather, proves the most verbose of these characters. And, believe me, that’s really saying something.
Given the name cast and the usually reliable Scott in the director’s chair, we had every reason to expect a fun bad movie along the lines of Oliver Stone’s recent “Savages.” What we get is a series of laughably overplayed vignettes that have something to do with $20 million in hijacked cocaine. The drugs, by the way, are hidden in a septic truck, under tons of excrement. Now that’s what I call the perfect metaphor for this steaming pile of …
Lovell, former movie critic for the San Jose Mercury News, teaches film studies at De Anza College in Northern California. He has written about film for Variety, the L.A. Times and, most recently, the Boston Globe.
THE COUNSELOR ✮ With Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, Penélope Cruz, Brad Pitt. Directed by Ridley Scott; scripted by Cormac McCarthy. 117 min. Rated R (for profanity, extreme violence)