Hank: Out on the West Texas town of El Paso, lawyer Michael Fassbender falls in love with a Mexican girl. Technically, she’s Spanish, (it’s Penelope Cruz), but the point is that, as “The Counselor” (2013) opens, Michael and Penelope are rolling like thunder under the covers, having a naughty conversation. Like almost everything in this mixed-bag crowd-divider, the scene is both a little shocking (because characters having normal, loving sex is one of Hollywood’s most unusual sights) and a little silly (because those characters behave as though their normal, loving sex is somehow the height of experimental depravity.)
Director Ridley Scott (“Alien,” “Blade Runner,” “Legend,” etc) does his best to tonally balance a shocking / silly script by Pulitzer-Prize Winning Author Cormac McCarthy. I always sort of felt like Cormac McCarthy was an overrated grump, pretty much Elmore Leonard without punctuation or a sense of humor, but the Biblical hyperbole of his prose disappears on the big screen- as the decent, nay great, adaptation like “No Country for Old Men” shows. “The Counselor” is not quite at that level, but it is an unfairly dismissed story about a lawyer paying the wages of sin. (The wages of sin, by the way, is death by beheading.)
Cousin Franz: Fassbender’s increasingly desperate fate is tangled with those of dubious characters played by excellent actors: Javier Bardem (with a ridiculous spiked hair-do that will haunt you); Cameron Diaz (playing Bardem’s cheetah-worshipping, predatorial trophy wife/ girlfriend); Brad Pitt, (as a tense, understandably paranoid cowboy); and Rosie Perez as the Counselor’s only apparent client. Ruben Blades (“Predator 2”!) gets to deliver a long philosophical speech that quotes Spanish poet Antonio Machado. Dean Norris from “Breaking Bad” and Natalie Dormer from “Game of Thrones” stop by briefly just so that they can print the words “Ridley Scott” and “Cormac McCarthy” in their respective resumes.
Grandpa Felicius: All the notable thespians in “The Counselor” approach McCarthy’s overpowering, theatrical script as though it were an invitation to release all the “acting ideas” that had been germinating for years without a suitable script to enable them. None are guiltier of this than Javier Bardem and Cameron Diaz, both memorable in ways I would rather forget. Ridley Scott is also TOO aware of the gravity of the occasion, (one doesn’t film a movie written by the author of “Blood Meridian” every week, or even every decade) so he stages the heck out of a series of unconvincing, stiff, dick-measuring dialogues that are enlivened only by McCarthy’s cantankerous attempts to shock.
Trent: Cherry for the scene where Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz get twin massages at the spa and Diaz goes into cougar mode on Cruz. Or should I say cheetah mode? Because Diaz has a cheetah fetish which includes cheetah spots on her shoulders. Cheetah tattoos (Cheettoos?) are a 50/50 proposition. If they come out right, they’re sexy. If they don’t come out right, they look like an alarming skin condition. I feel the same about the infamous scene in which Diaz (in a feline-print dress!) somehow has sex with the windshield of Ferrari. That’s 50 % sexy, 50% “Uuuuuh, that’s NOT what windshields are for.”
Beatricia: “The Counselor” approaches its plot in an oblique manner, and anyone who doesn’t adjust to that will have a frustrating 2 hours and a half of their existence taken away. Those who accept that this is all about characters contemplating their next move and/or dealing with the consequence of that move, will delight on Cormac’s over-written dialogue, which has its cute lines. Look at Javier Bardem, telling, (Cameron Diaz) that her world-view is “cold.” “The truth has no temperature,” she replies right back. Later, Bardem says: “Greed doesn’t take you the edge. That’s what greed IS.” It doesn’t mean much, but these actors make the faux-philosophical lines like grand pronouncements. I was sold. Cherry.
Grandpa Felicius: Here’s a joke:
“Counselor, you wanna know why Jesus wasn’t born in Mexico?”
“He couldn’t find three wise men or a virgin.”
Tracey: Ewww! No Cherry for the bullshit, sub-post-Hemingway macho yammering. But then I want to give it a Cherry because Michael “Magneto” Fassbender is such a dapper gentleman. But then I take the Cherry right back due the casual, racist dismissal of life South of the Border.
Grandpa Felicius: Yes, how DARE they suggest that Ciudad Juarez is a blood-muddled cesspool of cartel violence. There is no evidence to support that absurd claim he said as he stared at the primordial stew of flesh-tangled ossuaries done in by greed in afternoons temperate due to sunlight unimpressed and unmindful of a city that burst ripe with the watermelon memories of men armed and avid of war and women weeping for dead love or dead hatred or any such dead emotion of unfulfilled nerve endings and who needs commas not i he said you do his wife answered otherwise people won’t know jes’ what you’re on about they’ll know he laughed they’ll know.
Beatricia: Juarez still has less murders per capita than St. Louis or Baltimore!
Grandpa Felicius: For shame, ‘Murica. For shame.
“Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace el camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar.”
4 out of 6 Cherries