I was slack-jawed and spellbound while watching Cormac McCarthy’s first original screenplay unfold on screen. Diabolically unpredictable and wildly discursive, problematic yet bold, the story itself is not the thing: it’s the characters and the words, and the twisted criminal universe in which they exist, standing apart from anything resembling a conventional legal thriller.
A desert-washed noir, The Counselor is set in the modern day, in the twilight zone where Texan bravado and Mexican fatalism collide with a woman who is an ice-blooded, fever-dream fantasy figure straight out of Jim Thompson. Waking up on a lazy afternoon under the sheets with a lawyer and his lady, the facts of the case are laid out plainly. The counselor ignores warnings raised by associates, enters into a drug deal, and pays the price when things go bad.
The fat is sliced from the plot bones and simmered in a philosophical stew served to the Counselor by a series of characters who form, collectively, a Greek chorus of doom. An Amsterdam diamond dealer (Bruno Ganz), a colorful middleman (Javier Bardem), and an impassive middleman (Brad Pitt) wax poetic to the lawyer (Michael Fassbender), who listens but does not hear what they are saying. An imprisoned mother (Rosie Perez) banters and bargains. And Malkina (Cameron Diaz), the colorful middleman’s femme fatale, a brilliant mastermind of uncertain Latin origin and overwhelming drive, prowls about like an imprisoned cheetah, biding her time until someone forgets to lock the cage.
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The film opens wide throughout the Metroplex on Friday, October 25.