The collaboration of Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy is irresistible.
The director of THELMA AND LOUISE and the writer of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN seems a match made in movie heaven.
Add a cast the stuff box office dreams are made of and you’re off to a pretty good start.
Javier Bardem leads with an eccentric hair style as he did in NO COUNTRY and SKYFALL and builds from follicles down a mesmerising, crazy charismatic character called Reiner who runs nightclubs and is in thrall of girlfriend Malkina, played by Cameron Diaz, who keeps a pair of cheetahs and likes to watch them chase prey.
The Counselor is played by Michael Fassbender, a Bentley driving barrister bidden by avarice to dally in a drug deal.
From order in the court to being caught in ordure, the enterprise is odorous and ominous; the means of delivery favoured by the cartel a telegraphic metaphor for the murky, mucky mire the players find themselves in.
Death and destruction and depravity rub shoulders with style and sophistication – Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt, Ruben Blades, Bruno Ganz give the picture a performance pedigree to be reckoned with.
For all its slickness and style, THE COUNSELOR feels confused and convoluted and the reason rests with the writer. A novelist of renown, this is McCarthy’s first original screenplay in 40 years and it suffers from too much novelist navel gazing – a tad too much philosophising, proselytizing, and ponderous monopoly of the monologue that only serves to bog the film’s flow.
Still, there is much to admire and enjoy – eroticism, exoticism and enigmatic intrigue fuel the film and the cinematography by Dariusz Wolski adds a lustrous texture.
Such is the currency of McCarthy as a novelist, his publishers, Picador, have printed the screenplay in an almost plain brown wrapper, devoid of film-tie in cover images, imagined to appeal to the writer’s fiction fan base rather than the film going public.
The written word rewards both those who have seen the film and those who have not. Indeed, it reads better than it plays in some instances, and the prose is redolent of McCarthy’s novels’ musculature and sinew.
Whether you see THE COUNSELOR or read it, the rewards are there. Double the flavour, double the visceral, do both. It’s a complimentary and clarifying experience.