The Counselor

Year: 2013
Production Co: Chockstone Pictures
Director: Ridley Scott
Producer: Ridley Scott
Writer: Cormac McCarthy
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt, Bruno Ganz, Rosie Perez, Edgar Ramirez, Goran Visnjic

Preparing myself for the worst Ridley Scott film ever made after all the negative reviews, I was certainly (if not pleasantly) surprised. This movie isn't the train crash you've heard it is.

It's very much the product of Cormac McCarthy, a writer who it appears was swayed by a fat cheque from Hollywood and thought he could bring an Elmore Leonard-esque sensibility to the screen, his personality shining through.

I'm not familiar enough with McCarthy's work to know if it's his signature shtick, but the story is both deceptively simplistic but distinctive in a crime noir kind of way. There's a real Hollywood gloss, big stars and good performances over a pulpy, B movie narrative.

It's about an unnamed lawyer (Fassbender) who turns corrupt at the invitation of one of his more boisterous clients, rich entrepreneur Reiner (Bardem, with another spectacular haircut). When Reiner tells the Counselor about a huge Mexican drug deal he's in on the latter buys in, figuring it'll be an easy payday for he and the beautiful girlfriend he's just asked to marry him, Laura (Cruz).

It brings him into the orbits of some very shady characters facilitating the deal, including broker Westray (Pitt) and Reiner's svelte, ice-cool and possibly evil girlfriend Malkina (Diaz). But bigger forces are at play, and when the delivery is highjacked, the scary cartel behind it considers everyone a suspect, and their reach is as far as their methods of punishment are brutal.

It's a quite serviceable crime thriller, but it also stands out for several reasons. One is the scene (involving Cameron Diaz and a car windscreen) that finally admits men aren't slobbering sex beasts and how confronted they can be by female genitalia - albeit handled with no gender sensitivity or political correctness whatsoever.

Second (very hard to talk about without spoilers) is the final fate of the hero and his lady, in two shocking scenes that leave them in a completely different universe from a traditional riding off into the sunset ending. In fact there's hardly a major character left alive at the end except for the one you never expected was masterminding the entire thing.

It's brutal and profane, nicely contrasting scenes of extraordinary riches with the price the characters ultimately pay to enjoy them.

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