“Counselor, we’ve got a problem,” says Westray (Brad Pitt). “It’s pretty bad – then multiple by ten.” Michael Fassbender plays Counselor (he’s one of many no-name characters in this movie), a lawyer who realizes too late he’s caught in a trap of his own making. That’s the set-up for this violent, elegantly-filmed drug-and-crime thriller.
What happened to night-club owner Reiner’s (Javier Bardem) $20-million truckload of cocaine? Can Counselor save girlfriend Laura (Penelope Cruz)? What’s the take-away from this existential cautionary tale?
Michael Fassbender is Counselor who makes a set of bad decisions, trapping himself in the lavish and violent world of Mexican drug cartels. “I won’t say you know what you’re doing,” says new boss, drug lord Reiner – well played by Javier Bardem – “because you don’t.” “I’m in,” says Counselor, nonetheless. Bardem and Cameron Diaz are cool Reiner and svelte Malkina, cynical couple whose over-the-top, amoral life contrasts with Fassbender and Cruz’s passion for each other and guilelessness. “I intend to love you until I die,” says Counselor. “Me first,” says Laura. Brad Pitt is Westray, ambiguous middleman who navigates the world of drug-traffickers and warns Counselor of its dangers. “You may think there are things these people are incapable of doing,” he says. “They are not.”
Others in the large cast include Rosie Perez as Ruth, Counselor’s imprisoned client and Richard Cabral as Young Biker, aka “Green Hornet.” Bruno Ganz is Diamond Dealer who says, “Every diamond is cautionary. All I search for is imperfection.” Dar Dash as Barman has existential issues, too. “All my family is dead,” he says. “I’m the one who has no meaning.”
“The Counselor” is a violent thriller/cautionary tale about the consequences of greed. Ridley Scott directed from novelist Cormac McCarthy’s epigrammatic script. Everyone philosophizes about life. “We announce to divinity that we will not be diminished by the brevity of our lives,” says Diamond Dealer. “You don’t know someone until you know what they want,” says ironic Westray. Talk like this distances us from characters and, indeed, we only identify with Cruz’s Laura. Still, “The Counselor” is compelling filmmaking. Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography is color-drenched and gorgeous.
Deservedly rated R for graphic violence, grisly images, strong sexuality, and language, “The Counselor” is for adult audiences who’ll have issues to talk about afterwards. For example, “Life is not going to take you back,” says a character. “You are the world that you have created.” Discuss.
“The Counselor,” he’s in
(Women, cartels, crack)
But deeper than he knows –
And building his own trap.