MEEK AT THE MOVIES : THE COUNSELLOR ( 2.5 stars )

Counsellor

^ mixed up shook up bad gals and bad guys : including Brad Pitt and Cameron Diaz in Ridley Scott’s “The Counsellor”

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Not so long ago the Coen Brothers deviated from their usually quirky fare and wove a hard-boiled yarn about lawmen and criminals playing it loose and lethal as they pursued an elusive satchel of money back and forth across the Southwest border.  The basis for that masterpiece came from the laconic and acerbic prose of Cormac McCarthy’s similarly titled novel, “No Country for Old Men.” And in an odd and intriguing, first time move, the scribe, for iconic director Ridley Scott (“Alien” and “Blade Runner”), has delivered his first original screenplay. The result is full of pointed soliloquies, diatribes imbued with philosophy and poetry and even daubs of philosophy regarding poetry; but the mainstays, of course, are protracted dissertations on death and destiny, followed invariably by death.

Just as in “No Country” the plot is driven by an accidental anti-hero ensnared in a macabre web of underworld misdoings. In short, McCathy has cooked up an assured rearrangement of “No Country.” It’s not on par by any means, but it is entertaining. And, if you haven’t gotten enough of him lately, Michael Fassbender tackles the eponymous role (that’s all he’s ever called), as a square-jawed, fashionably stoic defender, who, while very dapper and upper crust, has a litany  of unsavory clients. One, an imprisoned mama kingpin (Rosie Perez put a lot of pizzazz into the brief role), asks him to pay a fine for her son who’s in jail for a traffic violation (going over 200 mph). He reluctantly complies, but doesn’t know that the kid is involved in a scheme to hi-jack a 20 million dollar drug shipment. Which doesn’t matter, because by sheer association he’s now considered one of the brains behind the ever expanding plot.

Zanies and assassins from every corner of the muted desert town start to drift up. And, if the similarities to “No Country” haven’t hit you over the head at this point, Javier Bardem drops in for good measure as the shady club operator who has a few nascent business dealings with the Counsellor. Bardem’s real life wife, Penelope Cruz, shows up too, as the Councilor’s betrothed, but she’s mostly just garnish and a bargaining chip. The real feminine fire power comes from the gams of Cameron Diaz as the high priestess of the Southwest gangland. She’s flip, enjoys Gucci and Prada and doesn’t value life too much, and, if she so desires it, she’ll fuck a Ferrari (no joke).

Brad Pitt’s in the mix too as another shady sort who advises the Counsellor on how to get his neck out of the noose, but his role, like Cruz’s, feels more ornamental than substantive and perhaps somewhere out there, there’s  a studio exec who thought it would be devilish fun to release Pitt and Fassbender in this western noir the same week the pair appeared in the more serious, “12 Years a Slave”–celluloid buddies to save the day at the box office?

The problem with “The Counsellor” isn’t so much the every twisting and inward folding machinations that keep the engine humming. That works quite well, the problem is that none of these people are likable and Fassbender’s Counsellor is such a stiff, you never really give a rat’s ass if he gets offed or not. But the film looks great. Scott has always been a visual stylist and really summons up the dusty milieu with artistic elan.  McCarthy too packs it with some rich treasures and a potpourri of indelible underlings. Heads roll (literally) and the stash of drugs is carted around a septic truck that from time to time gets shot up and re-patched so that the shit don’t stink. That’s the wicked type of fun “Counsellor” has. It’s not much, but it clicks along just enough.

— Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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