VOD film review: The Counselor (in the style of Cormac McCarthy)
Cameron Diaz and a car5
Ivan Radford | On 16, Mar 2014
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem
Watch The Counselor online in the UK: Disney+ / TalkTalk TV / Apple TV (iTunes) / Rakuten TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
The Counsellor (Fassbender) and Laura (Cruz) entwined their bodies under the bed sheets and said rude words and kissed each other and kissed again. The audience sat and watched the intensity like a flame and the heat flickered with stern seriousness. To them it all seemed almost silly in the dark room where the lights were dimmed. They tried not to giggle.
That sombre mood strode through the Texas dust for two hours and didn’t let up. The Counsellor walked with it the muck dirtying his feet with the guilt of the underworld. His friend Reiner (Bardem) a drug dealer welcomed him to the criminal universe with a grin and a flamboyant gesture. His hair spiked up into the air like a hedgehog caught in a draft.
Reiner could see himself winning awards one day for his hair but he did not concern himself with the future as the future was futuristic and only of concern to those not in the present. Instead he told The Counsellor about a bolito, a metal device that attaches to a mans neck gripping like a vice and slowly winds in, an unstoppable machine chomping through sinews and arteries until his head falls off. A slow inevitable death.
The audience in the darkened room waited to see when the bolito would appear. Behind the camera Ridley Scott was happy to let them. He sat on the directors chair with the script next to him taking up an extra seat. The words were heavy and long. Ridley liked the long heaviness of them. He gave time for Cormac McCarthys words to roll out of the mouths of the characters like Shakespearean soliloquies pouring over Elizabethan ears.
So much space and time was allocated to the speeches that Ridley soon lost sight of the thriller he had been making and Cormac McCarthys voice eclipsed everything else. Endless winding passages of intricate vocabulary and beautiful prosaic descriptions tackled vague specifics of metaphysics and philosophy and the importance of fate and consequences and moral responsibility. Then Cameron Diaz had intercourse with a car.
As Reiner’s squeeze Malkina, Cameron embodied The Counsellors themes of immoral manipulation. She was the corrupt yin to Penelopes innocent and equally shallow yang. Malkina watched her pet cheetahs chasing down prey in the desert before revealing her own cheetah print tattoo to the Counsellor. In her overdone accent the cheater spoke about cheetahs and explained that she was like the cheetahs so that everyone understood the importance of cheating, the cheetahs and her. One cheetah went to a restaurant for dinner. Malkinas costumes looked like they had eaten the other one for breakfast.
Every now and then between The Counsellors daft dresses and florid monologues someone would get brutally murdered. Decapitated. Ridley observed these events with a dark and graphic humour that understood the balance of light and shade in Cormac McCarthys style. The rest was misjudged. The tone jumped like a wild kangaroo between low trash and lofty debate boring the audience yet fascinating those enchanted by the demonstration of how screenplays and novels could be so different even when written by the same talented author.
In the end the bolito arrived to perform its clenching movement. The crowds patience had already been severed.
You are at a cross in the road and here you think to choose but here there is no choosing there is only accepting, said womanising middle-man Westray (Pitt) to The Counsellor. The choosing was done long ago. Scott nodded offscreen. Fassbender then cried as his world crumbled like a digestive biscuit in a mug of tea left out in the garden in winter. The water was tepid.
As the audience turned on the lights again they agreed The Counsellor was a film you either loved or hated. They were wrong. The Counsellor was not really a film at all. It was a string of excerpts from Cormac McCarthy novels.
Occasionally they resembled something more.
The Counsellor is available on Disney+, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.