“Vanity. Definitely my favorite sin.” Al Pacino, The Devil’s Advocate.
It’s been viewed as a vanity project by director Ridley Scott and I can see why especially when based off a screenplay by Cormac McCarthy. It’s been highly ignored which is why I declare it the Cloud Atlas of 2013.
Last year, an aspiring vanity project came out at the same release date as The Counselor. Ironically, had an all-star cast including the likes of Tom Hanks, well-written dialogue, and an inspiring message of humanity. It also went down as one of the biggest bombs of 2012, while in my opinion it was also one of the best of the year as The Counselor is for 2013. Yeah, I’m not lying!
I knew people like Ridley Scott would love…Vanity. Definitely my favorite…oh no, déjà vu.
The film asks us, “Have You Been Bad Today?” It’s used towards the main character, The Counselor (played with smart alecky depth by Michael Fassbender) and during the beginning, a lot happens and becomes scattered pieces of a puzzle of unscrupulous characterization.
He makes two deals with unsavory characters that make him a middleman. One character, Reiner (played by Javier Bardem, who’s given the best lines) persuades him that a cable wire that’s alloy and metal can kill a person in less than a minute or even take their head off while the other character is drug trafficking with the Mexican cartel whose middleman is a corrupt Texas lawman, Westray (played with slimy glee and wit by Brad Pitt) and I warn you, these people aren’t angelic.
Meanwhile, there is someone that has an agenda of their own that will bring down these two deals. All we know is that Reiner is on his way to becoming a nightclub owner and dating a mysterious, free spirited woman with a Caribbean accent played with vigor and at times rightfully, unemotionally by…Cameron Diaz. Wait? Cameron Diaz. Did I say that right? However, her character turns out to be far more than we believe. Trust me, this woman believes in forgiveness of her sinful acts is as easy as confessing to a Catholic priest, even though she’s not Catholic and the priest wants nothing to do with her. Hmm, interesting.
I kicked Kelly Lynch’s ass, you think I can’t pull this off? Just try me.
Counselor lives the good life, he drives a Bentley and lives in a stylishly clean apartment decked out in white and even goes to Amsterdam to pick a diamond out to propose to his girlfriend, Laura (played by Penelope Cruz). Ironically, the theme of the film is hidden between the lines of the intricate way of how to pick the diamond.
What I loved about this film is that this all-star cast is slumming it up, but at the same time giving uniformly great performances. Scott adapts McCarthy’s novel/screenplay with skill and intelligence by making the performances, dialogue, and plot the main framework for the sparse but necessary action sequences brought with authenticity. Something we don’t see nowadays.
I gave you Alien, Gladiator, Black Rain, Body of Lies. Are you that pissed off about Prometheus?
As you connect the final piece, you will see the puzzle all come together and turn simplistically into two types of character which I bought into. Let me be blunt, this is for the old-school audience, not the A.D.D. audience or “critics” of today that can’t sit through scene after scene involving pulpy dialogue.
The Counselor is like an onion, peeling back its layers of story punched with snappy novel-like dialogue and character reveals appropriate action that doesn’t hold back on consequences you’d face when you mess with a Mexican drug cartel and get in over your head. A old-school vanity project lost in the cracks of the 2013 season is an hidden gem for the audience of the past.
Do a Shot: every time you hear a character say “Counselor.”
Do a Body Shot: when Cameron Diaz does something sinful
Shotgun a Beer: when you see Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris
Down a 32 oz: when the two types of character are revealed at the end.