Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
The legend Ridley Scott teams up with author Cormac McCarthy in "The Counselor", a Coen Brothers-ish amorality tale of drugs, dilemmas, cacti and kooks. With so much iconic talent behind the writing, this film should be an instant classic. Unfortunately, at times you might run for the instant coffee. The film skitters and scatters like so much Uzi fire with laborious exposition, long pauses, some wordy philosophy, and smatterings of silliness that do not seem to add or enhance all that much to the story.
Visually, the film is exquisite however with long shots of ochre vistas as rich as the paintings of Mark Rothko or the color-fields of Barnett Newman. Smoking trucks appear like elephants humped on the yellow horizon as mascara-eyed cheetahs pant on the ground in Rodeo Drive collars.
The provocative Javier Bardem plays a drug kingpin Reiner, and he is striking enough despite his babble about women and sex talk. His hair stands straight up as if electrified and his character appears to wear overlarge chef pants. His role is part Joker from "The Dark Knight" and part Gomez Addams. Never has their been such an odd mixture of the strange and the silly, with all of his igauna-skinned barefoot lazing and lounging by the pool. Bardem doesn't do all that much but perhaps he doesn't have to. His role recalls Brando in some of his quirky, offbeat roles and the sight of him is almost enough.
The terrific Michael Fassbender plays the title role as the counselor, a supposed advocate for prison inmates dealt a bad turn. He is a blank page, a cypher in off white and beige, who nonetheless grows gradually scaly.
I have to admit he plays it perfectly as a man in a gray cyber suit who stares at his macbook passively and decides to be in on a drug fencing deal and a partner to Reiner's laundering club.
The cardinal sin here is the acting of Cameron Diaz who although initially exciting, delivers her lines with such an uninteresting flatness and monotone, she makes it seem as if she is parodying a sitcom or drive in movie. Even if that is the case, her inflection is so sterile and her face so poker-still, she is not quite convincing. So she is an ice queen, a cold cat of hard flashing appearances. We get it, but the flash seems uninspired with such dull toned lines like "Truth has no temperature". Sure.
As a 21st century Veronica Lake, Malkina (which translates as 'evil cat') is a little less than dramatically Wilde, excluding a Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct) type scene which merges porn techniques with a car windshield.
When the dialogue winds down and the noose tightens a bit along with the gore, we get a passable if pedestrian haunted-hunted man play of perspiration and panic in the tradition of a "Blood Simple" or a "Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia". This is not an awful or embarrassing crime-play of cold fish. It is only that it is repetitive as we have seen such shadowed and mean men before, pursued and panting along the harsh and bright valleys with no one to stop and hear.
Such Tex Mex terror and rosacea runs hum-drum. "The Counselor" is not originally noir or stirring in this abstract age.
One exception is Ruben Blades who gives a good outing as a voice on the phone with a string of advice that is a zen mix of Camus, almost reaching something poetic.
For the most part however, aside for some cool and crisp cinematography, these outwardly loud but inwardly cold and cruel characters are all cowpokes and preening dommes that we have seen before in other Cohen/Capotesque or De Palma-derived epics. There is even Brad Pitt here, acting too Brad and too Pitt.
At sunset's end, the two gorgeous cats seem to have more dynamic anima and pathos within their pelts than any of these high-hatted players.
Write Ian at email@example.com