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Performing Art
Arts and Entertainment Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013 6 years ago

FILM REVIEW: 'The Counselor'


As Ridley Scott promotes his new film, "The Counselor," he makes reference to "epic casting." Another carrot he may wish to have dangled is that, in the film, Cameron Diaz has sex with a car. That's just one of the less-disturbing acts committed in this shocking crime thriller.

The fabulous Michael Fassbender plays the nameless title character who allows an acute attack of avarice cloud his judgment. When he hooks up with a kooky, yet charismatic cocaine kingpin (Javier Bardem, once again crazily coiffed) for a one time drug deal, things get nasty. The acquisition of fast cash rarely pans out well in the movies.

But the price that the counselor has to pay is the dearest of all. The evil thicket of thieves who holds him responsible for a botched job are as colorful as they are vicious. The kingpin's girlfriend (a gold-toothed, platinum-finger-nailed, cheetah-tattooed Cameron Diaz) is slimy, snide and up to no good — such fun to watch. And Brad Pitt as the cowboy-clad go-between for the Mexican cartel is cucumber-cool. Slick casting is an understatement.

Novelist Cormac McCarthy, famous for creating unique characters ("No Country For Old Men" and "The Road") scripts his first feature screenplay for "The Counselor," and it's a dilly. His abundant and ubiquitous soliloquies are as delicious as the unexpected episodes of violence throughout the film. The methods devised to whack unassuming victims demonstrate a gift for the bizarre, one of which includes a portable guillotine. Be forewarned!

Oscar winner Scott ("Thelma and Louise" and "Gladiator") pulls out all the stops in "The Counselor." His opening shot is one of pure love between the attorney and his girlfriend (Penelope Cruz). It's sexy and sweet. But, in no time, we're witnessing extreme depravity shrouded by some form of acceptability. The ride becomes almost unbearable, but there's no desire to jump ship. He owns his audience.

"The Counselor" is chock-full of surprising cameos by celebrated actors who include Bruno Ganz, Rosie Perez, John Leguizamo and Ruben Blades, to name just a few. It's as though they all wanted in on this cleverly twisted piece of filmmaking.

"The Counselor" is about readjusting your moral compass and paying the piper. Fassbender's portrayal of a man who made a devastating mistake is always sympathetic. The tears, ever evident in his eyes, betray his true nature. We want to forgive him even as severed fingers and heads fly through the desert air.


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