“The Counselor” is a handsome, but shallow, production centering around an entitled group that pursues an ostentatious lifestyle.
Drawn from a screenplay by acclaimed novelist Cormac McCarthy, author of “No Country For Old Men,” the story falters in its attempt to make its amoral characters interesting.
Javier Bardem portrays Reiner, a garishly garbed drug importer who incongruously resides on an aesthetically pleasing and expansive Arizona estate that passes itself off as the pinnacle of “desert cool.” Besides his loud clothes Reiner displays a weakness for hedonist Malkina (Cameron Diaz), a woman appearing enchanted by her basest desires. The couple owns a pair of collared cheetahs they use expressly for the purpose of watching the cats chase down jack rabbits while they sip cocktails mixed at a bar mounted on the rear of Reiner’s car. Staring coolly into the distance, they expound upon the nature of life and death in a manner intended to be profound.
Reiner’s attorney, a dullard known as the counselor (played by Michael Fassbender), is fixated on his beautiful, sweet-natured girlfriend Laura (Penelope Cruz). The counselor plans to make his fortune by inserting himself into a large Mexican-American drug deal, which will provide the cash to invest in a nightclub so that he can spend his time shagging Laura. He flies to Amsterdam where he purchases a 4-carat diamond ring. Next we are treated to his marriage proposal consisting entirely of, “Will you?”
It’s unusual to find such brevity in this talky melodrama, but we’ll accept it gratefully whenever it shows up. We find no such economy in Brad Pitt’s Westray, a long-haired gentleman cowboy grown rich on the illegal drug trade, but who nonetheless warns the counselor there are no financial rewards commensurate with the risks involved.
High on love and envious of Reiner’s monied lifestyle, the counselor throws millions into a drug deal that soon goes very, very wrong. Heads roll, literally, and those who consider themselves smart, learn otherwise.
McCarthy attempts to hold our interest by throwing in subplots that involve septic tanker trucks and decomposing bodies sealed in barrels, but he sets us adrift in a sea of nonchalant violence with no land in sight. We fairly drown in pretty words and severed body parts.