Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Counselor (2013)

JohnnyTwoToes finds this slowburning thriller a sedate but good watch!

When Ridley Scott is in great form, he can be simply awesome as evident in Prometheus, Gladiator, Black Rain and perhaps his best Alien. Then he does, what I would call 'smaller' offbeat films like The Counselor that flop but are decent in their own right. The Counselor is just such a film. 

You have to be in the mood for it, and I happened to be in the mood for a loquacious drama about a Counselor (Michael Fassbender) who decides he wants to do a one time drug deal to make some quick cash. Only once he is in too deep, does he realize it is too late to get out before everything he has can be taken from him. The Counselor was bashed by critics and audiences, for the most part and it is sometimes a bit monotone as the Counselor meets with one contact after another and has the same seemingly cryptic conversation with each of them. I began to understand that this is how they probably talk to one another. They don't talk about things directly since they are criminals conducting criminal enterprises. They talk AROUND things, so they can still follow their dialogue when no one else can. That keeps them out of the slammer. 

The Counselor was written by scribe Cormac McCarthy who is credited with a great screenplay like No Country For Old Men (also starring Javier Bardem, who is in The Counselor with hair looking like he stuck his finger in the light socket) and the novels The Road which was turned into a good film with Viggo Mortensen and All The Pretty Horses with Matt Damon. McCarthy has an ear for how people talk and although most of the dialogue in The Counselor is a bit removed from everyday conversation that we have, it was still interesting to hear how people talk who are hiding themselves and their lives from everybody else. 

The movie is well cast with Fassbender in the title role, Bardem who is client and an associate with his girlfriend, Malkina coyly played by Cameron Diaz and the counselor's fiance played by Penolope Cruz. Brad Pitt is Westray, who is also a client and an associate of the counselor. They all are in fine form, but none of them will be remembered for this film. Their work is decent but not earth shattering. 

The Counselor features some grisly violence and it moves well in spots but Scott's direction is a bit too laid back and I can see why people ran gagging from the theaters in this one. Still, it has Fassbender who is becoming a household name and he is terrific. His counselor is a decent looking rogue (no pun intended to his X-Men friends), who thinks by his sheer looks, charisma and charm will protect him in the drug world. Oh, he could not be more wrong. These are butchers who will kill anyone they even SUSPECT is dishonest. 

After things go horribly wrong does the counselor's world begin to unravel with expected consequences, which begs the question. How could the counselor be so stupid? How could he not know that if things go wrong, who they were going to come for? There are some surprises and nice noirish themes throughout and on this night I liked The Counselor for all of its odd charm and quirky storytelling. It was also nice to see Rosie Perez back in an A list film even though it was a small supporting role and new film score composer Daniel Pemberton does a nice ethnic sounding score that is worth getting if you are so inclined. 

Would I watch The Counselor AGAIN? No. But, for what it was I did like what I saw. Is it for everyone? NO. But is you don't want a film that assaults you and all of your senses, and are looking for a quiet pot boiler on a quiet night, The Counselor might be just for you. The Counselor-*** out of 4


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