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McCarthy’s ‘Counselor’ makes it to big screens

Benjamin Murphy , 4Play Contributor
November 14, 2013
Filed under 4Play

Directed by Ridley Scott and written by Cormac McCarthy, “The Counselor” is the third of his stories adapted to the big screen with high caliber actors in various leading and supporting roles.

Set in the American Southwest, “The Counselor” is a depiction of the drug trade along the Texas and Mexican border.

Fassbender (“Promethus,” 2012) plays the Counselor, a successful attorney who is about to enter the illicit drug trade for a one-time high-risk, high-return capital investment. Javier Bardem (“No Country for Old Men,” 2007) plays his playboy friend who has profited from the drug business and set him up with a drug cartel to make his investment. Add Penelope Cruz (“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” 2011) as the Counselor’s beautiful, innocent fiancé, and Cameron Diaz (“Shrek,” 2001) as Bardem’s oversexed, sociopath love interest, and you have the makings of a plan about to go awry.

Factor in Brad Pitt’s (“Inglorious Basterds,” 2009) small role as the middleman and Bardem’s caveat to the Counselor on the deal: that it’s still not without risk, and the penalties for non-compliance are far worse than the quick fortune it rewards.  Despite whatever good intentions the Counselor may have, he is nevertheless liable for entering the world of illegal drugs.

What follows is Scott’s trademark directorship of great filmmaking, but without the special effects and epic settings of notable Scott films such as “Alien,” “Blade Runner,”“Gladiator,” “Black Hawk Down” and “Prometheus”.

McCarthy’s screenplay doesn’t fit with Scott’s directing. What is left is a realistic look at the shipment of drugs into the U.S. and the brutal violence associated with it. The substance is a posing of deep introspective and existential questions about the nature of good and evil, loss, punishment and acceptance.

Veteran character actors Bruno Ganz and Rueben Blades have brief roles as intermediaries of Fassbender’s Counselor, before and after the deal is finalized, giving him insight.

McCarthy, whose talent as a writer is well known, is not at fault. He received the Pulitzer Prize for his novel “The Road” in 2007. The Coen brother’s 2010 film “No Country For Old Men,” a novel of McCarthy’s won Oscar’s for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and a Best supporting Oscar for Bardem.

With a $25 million production budget, it is not worth the cost of a full-price movie ticket and the big screen experience, which makes “The Counselor” a better DVD rental choice.