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The Counselor

tn_counselorI’m a lightweight when it comes to reading Cormac McCarthy books. I read No Country For Old Men, loved it, then loved the movie version. I was deeply moved by The Road, the movie was decent. Before those I tried to read All the Pretty Horses, but I think it was too dense for my brain at the time, I didn’t get very far. I haven’t tried Blood Meridian yet, I know that’s the one everybody recommends.

But from my limited experience THE COUNSELOR, the Ridley Scott movie made from McCarthy’s first original screenplay, is sure recognizable as his work. It’s a crime story full of colorful characters and the occasional brutal violence, but it’s not interested in a straightforward approach to storytelling. I mean, it’s never as aggressively untraditional as that one really abrupt thing that happens toward the end of No Country (I had to flip back a few pages after that one ’cause I thought I missed something), but it takes it’s sweet ass time getting to a point where you even know what it’s about on the surface.

We never find out the main character’s name, but he’s played by Michael Fassbender, and everybody who addresses him addresses him as “Counselor.” The opening scene is all about how good he is at going down on his lady (Penelope Cruz). It’s the first movie I’ve seen start that way since AWAY WE GO, possibly including porn. After that we meet the crazily dressed Javier Bardem and Cameron Diaz out in the desert, having some drinks and watching their pet cheetahs run around. Bardem wears loud shirts, yellow tinted glasses and Sid Vicious hair, as if it was important to someone to give him a sillier look than he had in NO COUNTRY. Diaz has cheetah spots tattooed up her shoulder. My first guess was that he was a famous photographer and she was a model and they were doing a themed shoot out there. Wrong. This is just how they lounge.

mp_counselorThe characters  go about various activities, each scene not necessarily related to the last. It’s a bit before it’s stated that the counselor and Bardem are involved in crime together, a while before they specify what type of crime, and they never get to showing exactly how they do it. They’re just involved, and it’s the point of view of the movie (and several of its characters) that that’s enough. If you’re involved you’re eventually gonna be dead.

Near the beginning Bardem describes a horrible weapon called a bolito that slowly, inescapably cuts your head off, and that’s what happens to the counselor metaphorically. (SORT OF SPOILER: from the time he mentioned the bolito I was dreading when it would eventually be used, but also dreading how disappointing it would be if it wasn’t. Well, both sides were satisfied. You see one, and you see it more explicitly than I expected. Yeah, he was right, those things are no fun.)

There’s a whole lot of story-telling and philosophizing in this movie. You gotta accept that. Talk talk talk. Even the jeweler who the counselor buys an engagement ring from philosophizes about the meaning of diamonds. Shit, even a guy that kicks him out of a restaurant after it’s closed stops to philosophize about life and death. Brad Pitt as… a cowboy guy that gives him advice or something, he tells alot of parables. I think it was him that brought up the topic of snuff movies, and the idea that the person who watches it is an accomplice. This is probly the main theme of the movie. This counselor thinks he can be at a distance and profit off this business without being truly guilty, as long as he doesn’t let himself know the gory details. But that cannot work. He will eventually become one of the gory details. And then some other sap is introduced at the end, The Banker, bright eyed and humorous and probly doesn’t know about bolitos yet.

(I hope one of those people who calls the great Coke scene in THE ROAD product placement calls this circular ending a blatant sequel set up.)

Ironically the turn of events that seals the counselor’s doom has nothing to do with his criminal ways. In fact he does a nice favor for a completely unrelated, court-appointed client (Rosie Perez – good to see her in a movie again) that connects him to some bad shit he honestly has nothing to do with. But as everybody keeps telling him in different fancy ways, tough shit.

In a sense this reminds me of George V. Higgins, or a couple of Tarantino’s movies, because so much of it is just about conversations and ideas people bring up, and alot of the story comes out of that more than a traditional plot structure. There’s alot of phone calls and meetings in hotel cafes. And there are lots of little tangents, characters that show up for a little bit and catch your interest and then are not seen again, or get horribly killed so you know for sure you’re not gonna see them again. Almost all of them do alot of gabbing. Everything is over-discussed and under-explained, that’s the approach.

But most of my favorite parts of the movie are the parts without talking, the parts just about the process of doing something odd: setting up a wire to decapitate a motorcyclist, repairing a truck with bullet holes, trying to figure out what a device they found in a dead guy’s helmet does. It’s not that often that the shit goes down, but when it does it’s always thrilling.

I heard that some people have said Diaz is terrible in this. I think what some of them mean is she’s really convincing as a strange character that makes them uncomfortable. She’s a little like Kristin Scott Thomas in ONLY GOD FORGIVES, a trashy Real Housewife/crime kingpin hybrid. But she’s more aggressively, weirdly sexual, to the point of trying to harass an innocent priest by making him hear about her sins without expectations of forgiveness. I don’t know what the fuck is up with the cheetahs, and I like that I don’t know what’s up. It’s like that zebra in SHADOWBOXER. Diaz looks older and more worn than she actually is, and her usual giggly persona completely disappears behind cold, hateful eyes.

I love that they have these pet cheetahs around all the time and nobody seems to be scared or surprised by them. They’re sitting there at the pool party, at the club. Bardem’s (SPOILER) last scene is so fitting. He’s not even supposed to get killed, but some dumbass shoots him, and like in an old western some little kids immediately run over and steal stuff off the body. In death he’s stripped of all his flashy shit – watch, shoes, sunglasses. But also his cheetahs get loose. That’s his legacy, I guess.

For me the first chunk required some patience. It’s like I’m staring at a bunch of puzzle pieces and it takes a little too long for me to find any that fit together. Then, right around the scene where Bardem recounts a story about a mildly Cronenbergian sex act, the movie reveals its sense of humor and starts really rolling from that point on. I liked ONLY GOD FORGIVES considerably more, but THE COUNSELOR had a similar effect on me: I can understand why normal people would hate this, but I enjoyed it, and the more I thought and wrote about it the better it started to seem.

Well, apparently alot of people do hate this one. After loving THE LONE RANGER and thinking AFTER EARTH was okay and now this, I’m starting to feel like my job this year is pre-writing the rebuttals to the “worst of the year” lists everybody’s gonna write. But I swear I’m not some contrarian (or reverse contrarian?). I guess I must be looking for and/or appreciating qualities in movies that most other people aren’t up for. But I also feel like in most of these cases there is some pre-judging and unfairness involved. To me this seems like one of those cases where even if you don’t like watching it you can acknowledge that it was intentionally made in a certain way that is interesting, that you can see why somebody would appreciate it. Like, that’s how I feel about CLOUD ATLAS. Something can be very, very not for you without being the worst thing in the world.

There was a review-ish thing by Andrew O’Hehir on Salon that got some attention for calling THE COUNSELOR “the worst movie ever made” in the headline, comparing it (unfavorably) to ISHTAR, and aggressively pushing a parallel to BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES. Tom C. kindly sent me the link because he thought the piece was spot-on, but I didn’t read it until writing a draft of my review here.

Obviously I disagree with O’Hehir’s stance. His piece is mostly a series of quips about just how bad it supposedly is (“It’s like a mumblecore movie about a bunch of Sarah Lawrence philosophy majors, made by coked-up rich people for 100 bajillion dollars”) with a few descriptions of unusual things about the movie, making the incorrect assumption that only an asshole would want to see unusual things in movies. Yes, the characters talk around things, yes, a woman fucks a car, yes Bardem has a hilarious reaction to that sight, yes the cinematography is great. These are good things in my book.

O’Hehir condescendingly writes, “I suppose it’s dimly possible that Scott and McCarthy have deliberately crafted a movie that looks like a mainstream entertainment but is in fact some work of deliberately unsatisfying postmodern gamesmanship. But it’s not likely.” I’d say it’s nothing that complicated, it’s as simple as they knew if they made a movie that “looks like a mainstream entertainment” on a poster then they could make the type of movie they actually wanted to make. They know that there’s room in the world for a movie that’s about a doomed cog in the drug trade, that avoids certain specifics and storytelling expectations, and is more about a bunch of big actors getting to play colorful characters who talk alot than about anything actually happening.

And I’m glad they knew it. I wouldn’t want all movies to be like this, but having one of ’em is great.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 at 2:58 am and is filed under Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

41 Responses to “The Counselor”

  1. Oh, I hear you. I’m also more forgiving than many other people on most of all these worst films ever of the week. And the only explanation I got on other people’s reaction is “I guess they wanted to hate it”. Over the last few years I became so frustrated, that I even started to think that some people shouldn’t be allowed to watch movies at all, because they are completely unable to enjoy them.

  2. SEE? THAT’S WHY I USUALLY DON’T USE THESE XHTML TAGS!!! (Yes, I was really yelling it while typing, which is why I went all caps. I was of course referring to: “I guess I must be looking for and/or appreciating qualities in movies that most other people aren’t up for. But I also feel like in most of these cases there is some pre-judging and unfairness involved.”)

  3. Expectations, high or low is usually a big part of how we initially perceive films. Somehow one need to free oneself from those shackles and just focus on the product on screen as a thing of its own.

  4. In the script there were long passages devoted just to how things are put together, like you mentioned. It’s nice to read, and it’s a staple of McCarthy. Good to see someone decided to adapt that visually and not gloss over those parts. On the other hand, I really disliked the script as a whole. It said nothing. There were all these weird interesting characters but it’s like McCarthy just set them out in the sun and didn’t actually do anything with them. Instead McCarthy made himself a sandwich or something. And these characters were just left out, and eventually got spoiled. They were no good to read about anymore.

  5. “The opening scene is all about how good he is at going down on his lady (Penelope Cruz). It’s the first movie I’ve seen start that way since AWAY WE GO, possibly including porn.”

    THE SITTER started this way. Just saying.

    Nice review, wish I enjoyed it as much as you seemed to. I really wanted to like this movie. Even as I was watching it. I was like, “I want to enjoy this.”

    But when it was over and I looked back, it was a pretty unpleasant experience in several ways. Oh well. Maybe I’ll revisit this in ten years and will love it then.

    But probably not.

  6. Vern, since you make passing comment to it, and I’ve seen other commenters mention it, but have you ever reviewed any mumblecore films? There’s a chance you might hate them, but I’d be really interested to read what you think.

    Gonna have to wait for this to come out in the UK, but definitely interested in it. I run hot and cold of Ridley Scott, but I love McCarthy. I’m a bit worries about how his prose with translate to the the screen – his simplistic but immaculately formed sentence construction is what makes me love his books, more than any plot elements. It seems the total opposite of Scott’s style and I can’t imagine them meshing.

  7. I went in to this expecting the worst. I am a huge fan of McCarthy, but think Scott is just about the worst big name director in ever. Seriously, he gets a pass for so much when his success rate is horrible. Fuck that Robin Hood movie, is what I’m trying to get at.

    Anyway, good movie. Script was better. Would have preferred Werner Herzog or someone else directed it, but Scott was competent if not quite hip to what the material required.

    I get where Richard is coming from about this movie not having anything to say. I think that’s part of the point. Reading McCarthy’s work you can see his opinions about life and his philosophy change. I think he’s clearly at the point where he thinks life is pointless (at best) but why not have sex with a car or something and don’t be fucking boring and miserable about it.

  8. Of all the Andrew O’Hehir reviews, his review for The Counselor was the Andrew O’Hehiriest. That man loves the sound of his own voice, and he has never heard the phrase “kill your darlings.”

  9. It’s an interesting movie because of how relentlessly bleak it is. The first half is “Don’t get into this business, Counselor. Things will go bad.” Then things go bad. The second half is “You’re completely fucked, Counselor. Your life is over and there’s nothing you can do to fix it.” Then things get worse. That’s the movie! And that’s what makes it a surefire bomb! You have to admire the people who put up the cash for this.

    In between the ACCEPT THAT YOU ARE DOOMED metaphorical speeches, there’s a really good speech about car humping that I want to watch again. The horror on Bardem’s face is priceless.

  10. Big fan of McCarthy, not a fan of Scott. Thought the film and script were decent but flawed. My biggest problem is SPOILER! that it’s all being engineered by Diaz’s character. I felt that the faceless evil of the cartel carried more dread behind it than some behind the scenes schemer.

  11. BLOOD MERIDIAN is one of the greatest westerns you’ll ever read. Bleak and awesome. It was the first thing I ever read of Cormac’s and it pretty much guaranteed that I’d pick up just about everything he’s written.

  12. See, that’s why I’ve never attempted to read or watch the Cormac McCarthy stuff. If the first word used to describe it is “bleak”, I don’t understand anyone enjoying it. I’m not trying to start any shit here. I’m honestly curious, why would anyone enjoy something that sounds so miserable? I’m not saying all my books or shows have to be puppies and cupcakes, but I think there’s enough horrible out in the world without seeking it out in your entertainment. God, and I don’t mean that to sound like Tipper Gore saying dirty music is corrupting our kids. I just mean, I could understand it if there was some sense of hope or redemption to the bleakness, but from what I’ve sussed out, McCarthy doesn’t usually have that. Am I wrong? Is it badass enough, which I could understand, too, that it overcomes the bleakness? Maybe I’m just too sensitive, but there have been things I’ve experienced in movies that I’ve carried with me, wishing I could unsee them. The best example of that is probably SLEEPERS. Rather, give me blood and guts and ridiculous, over the top violence any day.

  13. McCarthy finds a kind of implacable natural order in society. If you can find humor in Herzog, you can probably stand McCarthy’s novels.

    His POV is bleak, because his characters are doomed and would be even if they could effectively act on the environment, which they can’t. In that small circle there is still space for moral behavior, which McCarthy’s world receives with no more judgement than amoral behavior. McCarthy describes how the behavior works, and then leaves the imagining of what it all means up to you. This can be surprisingly moving, just laying it out there, like the relationship of the father and son in The Road.
    McCarthy was pretty funny at least once, too. The early novel Sutree puts us in the life of a complete loser on Knoxville’s skid row and the most squalid circumstances are given a plain non-judgmental reading.

  14. My favorite takedown of McCarthy is from VANILLA RIDE by Joe R. Lansdale: “I went home and showered the sweat off and read a little from a book by an author who didn’t use quotation marks and was scared to death his work might be entertaining.”

    It’s a good line, but as a relative McCarthy newb, I can’t really criticize. All I’ve read so far is NO COUNTRY, which I loved, although I don’t feel it’s appreciably better than similar fatalist western noir fiction I’ve read. I like it because it’s the kind of thing I like. I don’t really get why normal people think it’s so great.

    I am meaning to read more but was disturbed to find that the taciturn prose I so enjoyed about NO COUNTRY had much more decidedly Faulknerian in some of his other works. After reading 12 of Faulkner’s novels in five months for a college class the same semester I read the entire bookography of Toni Morrison circa 1997, I am pretty much done with fiction that does not state its intentions plain.

    But I’ll give McCarthy another go eventually. I’m too embarrassed not to have read BLOOD MERIDIAN already that I have no choice.

    As for this movie, I thought it looked good but Ridley Scott’s involvement automatically downgraded it to a rental for me. I still feel that with certain exceptions his work is handsome but inert, like a majestic eagle suspended in a block of lucite.

    Funny story, I got stopped for a marketing survey about THE COUNSELLOR at a movie theater a couple months ago. They showed me the trailer (which I’d already seen) and asked me what I thought the movie was about. “A hotshot young lawyer who gets in over his head with some drug dealers,” I said. “Whoa,” the guy giving the survey says. He flips to the next page and that’s pretty much word for word the plot synopsis. So I guess the trailer got the point across, at least to people who’ve seen a movie or two in their day.

  15. I saw this in a packed theater, and when it was over I heard more people cursing than I’ve ever heard coming out of a movie in my life. I honestly don’t know if there was one person in there who enjoyed it. If they did, they kept it to themselves.

    Look, I’m a fan of movies that don’t feel the need to force feed me every single plot point, but man, this flick could have at least left me a crumb or two to nibble on. If you were to ask me what the movie was about, all I could tell you is “Drug deal went bad, everyone was fucked.” I can’t tell you why it went bad, or why everyone blamed the Counselor, or whether Cameron Diaz was the mastermind or a dupe, or how they found Brad Pitt in London, or what the hell Goran Višnjić was doing in the movie, or John Leguizamo, or Dean Norris for that matter. It’s like I went to a trendy restaurant and got served bone marrow for dinner. Bone marrow is tasty, but it ain’t a complete meal. You already slaughtered the cow, now give me a damn porterhouse for dinner.

  16. Vern, Suttree is a McCarthy novel that doesn’t get talked up too much, but none other than Roger Ebert called it his masterpiece. Blood Meridian deserves its reputation as a must-read, but Suttree is way more personal, and for that it might be a lot easier to get into. It and No Country are my favorite of his books (for whatever that’s worth).

  17. MaggieMayPie – bleak entertainment can actually be cathartic if you’re in a bad mood, at least it is for me

  18. I find Blood Meridian remarkably entertaining and really quite funny in many places. It’s violent and uncompromising but that’s natural considering the historical events it’s based on (I recommend any fans of Blood Meridian read Samuel Chamberlain’s memoir My Confession…except Chamberlain writes like running with scalphunters was some fun adventure).

    No Country is considered one of McCarthy’s lesser novels. It began life as a screenplay, in fact.

  19. I think you just indirectly named the best candidate for Blood Meridian, Casey. Herzog is really the only filmmaker I can think of that would perfectly fit that tale. Just keep Scott the hell away from it. I’m not sure he’s interested in telling stories anymore.

    I don’t get how Lansdale can say McCarthy is scared to death of being entertaining. If Blood Meridian or No Country don’t float your boat, I really can’t help you. Also, The Road is just brilliant. It’s the most moving thing I’ve read since The Old Man And The Sea (and I read those more than a decade apart).

    P.S. Damn, it’s nice to be back to reading this site again. Been working non-stop 18 hour days for weeks. Anything exciting happen while I was gone? Did Asimov and JJ kiss and make up yet?

  20. In the link above, you get to hear a long discussion between Herzog and McCarthy about science and art. You also get to hear Herzog read some McCarthy prose.

    Also, I once met Herzog and gave him a portrait. Totally irrelevant but I’ll mention it whenever I can.

  21. I would too! I hope it was a panorama of Even Dwarves Started Small…

  22. David Lambert, what panel of philistines has judged No Country to be one of McCarthy’s lesser works? Regardless of where its origins lie, it’s one of his saddest and most beautiful books. I would put it above the entire Border Trilogy and anything he wrote before Suttree… in its own way, it’s just as good as Blood Meridian, they’re just stylistically completely different.

  23. Tom Caniglia, this is the drawing I gave Herzog: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=329187397173775&set=a.147331458692704.32802.147320312027152&type=3&theater It was drawn with colored pencil on the cardboard backing of a notebook. Herzog’s response was, “Ooh. I look grim.”

    pyschic_hits, I think the folks over at the forums on cormacmccarthy.com think of it as one of his lesser works. I enjoyed it greatly, myself, but I think it pales in comparison to Blood Meridian.

  24. That’s an awesome drawing! You’re obviously very talented.

  25. Thanks MaggieMayPie! It got me a job illustrating Matt Zoller Seitz’s next book, so it’s done well by me. I have more movie-related art at my page (http://facebook.com/davidlambertart) including drawings for Rolling Thunder, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, and Putney Swope.

    Sorry for the derail and shameless self-promotion, Vern.

  26. Clearly tastes over at the cormacmccarthy.com forums pale in comparison to this one.

    I agree that your drawing is awesome, and an equally awesome reply by Herzog! Congrats on Matt Zoller Seitz’s book art, too— I used to read his stuff when he wrote for the New York Press. You got him and Armond White in the same place that way. Made for all kinds of thought provocation.

  27. This movie was like if Wild Things thought it was a smart movie.

    My problem with this isn’t McCarthy’s script, or even Diaz. It’s Ridley Scott.

    Ridley clearly was paying homage to his brother Tony on this one, stylistically. The problem is that Tony Scott’s style was, for lack of a better word, shallow. At least Tony’s films knew they were shallow and acted accordingly. To attempt that style with this script creates a tonal dissonance that some people are reading as unique and original and I find to be intensely grating. McCarthy is incapable of not having something to say in his writing. He is a genius, and I don’t usually like to use that phrase. His writing deserves better than the direction it received here. It deserves the Coens, or as someone mentioned above, it deserves Herzog, who is a director that knows batshit but handles it with care. Ridley should’ve done his Tony homage with something a bit more disposable. Instead we get Wild Things: The Philosophy Years.

  28. All I know is I’m gonna have to think twice about riding a motorcycle on a remote road again.

  29. Laurel Canyon started with Christian Bale going down on Kate Beckinsale. I’m just saying.

  30. I never thought I’d like this one from the trailers, but reading this review, it seems like something I’d love checking out (I’m not really as enamoured as Fassbender nor Bardem – while appreciating their talent, I wouldn’t watch a film just because they are in it).

    Maggie May Pie- I agree with Griff, watching/reading something bleak is sometimes cathartic (I like watching weepies for that). As for me, having been blessed/cursed with an optimistic personality and a happy disposition, this type of fiction is interesting because it is unusual and unfamiliar.

  31. Even the title is an aspect of this movie that doesn’t work. The movie is not about the Counselor character any more than it is about anything else, and he never once counsels anyone, not in his capacity as an attorney or otherwise. He is not really even a character, because from beginning to end, we learn nothing about what kind of person he is. He’s just a male human. When stressed, he sweats, trembles, and cries. As a man, he might be good or he might be a pervert. Who knows. As a lawyer he might be good at his job, or he might be thoroughly incompetent. We have no idea. The only time we even see him act in his capacity as a lawyer is visiting his client Rosie Perez in prison to perform the kind of perfunctory function a paralegal or office assistant might perform over the phone.

    Yes, depressing movies can be cathartic, but this movie isn’t really depressing. The attempts at tragedy here don’t work like they’re supposed to because the characters are impossible to care about. It is no more affecting to watch bad things happen to the characters than it would be to watch pictures of stick figures on notebook paper being torn up.

    What the movie does is try the viewers’ patience for its entirety, without ever paying off. It’s both slow moving AND vague. Can’t be both and still work. It has terrible things happen to people, but the people are ciphers. Doesn’t matter. Demands that the viewer speculate as to what is going on, but such speculation will lead only to boring results. What is happening on the screen is not interesting enough to entertain the viewer while he speculates about the boring plot elements. In the end, watching The Counselor in the theater is like sitting in a waiting room for 2 hours.

  32. “In the end, watching The Counselor in the theater is like sitting in a waiting room for 2 hours.”

    That’s pretty much the perfect way to sum up this tedious chore of a film.

  33. SPOILERS. There was some silly stuff in this movie. The scene where Malkina goes to confession; the scene where Brad Pitt tells Counselor that they’re fucked and Counselor gets more upset about hearing about snuff films than about hearing that the Cartel is going to kill him; etc.

    But I don’t really get how people have been so dismissive of the core tragedy of “man gets involved with crime and gets his wife brutally murdered”. I was pretty well convinced by this story of a guy for whom dipping into the underbelly is getting his girlfriend to say “finger fuck” and how therefore naive and unprepared he is for the world of bolitos and sinisterly titled DVD-R’s. I didn’t want to root for him like I did for Llewelyn in NC4OM, but I think I could graft myself onto him better. I’m not a resourceful badass like Llewelyn, but I could see myself calling the guy who has my wife and pleading for her release.

    And the fact that the Cartel dude’s reaction to Counselor’s pleas was to, um, “impart wisdom” was the stuff of fucking nightmares in my opinion. Literally that’s how bad guys are in my nightmares, they are civilized and eloquent and hear you out but in the end no fucks are given.

    I saw the extended cut of the film (a whopping 20 minutes longer) and I am most curious about what was added and how it affected my experience.

  34. Had an unexpected visitor at our house last night, a female friend of my girlfriends who is going through some horrible shit with her husband. Had dinner then decided to put a movie on. Our friend said one of her favorite movies was THELMA AND LOUISE, which made the decision easy, even though I was gunning for Big Bad Wolves that I just bought.

    And it’s about as good as I thought it was 20 years ago, if not slightly better as an example of Ridley Scott making a movie not only with style, but some emotional substance too. I think I get why chicks might love this movie.(It was funny hearing our friend quote some of the dialogue verbatim. I love movies for this reason, how some connect with our inner world.) Of course, there’s the obvious strong feminist message and the point of view that all men are assholes. In this movie there are only two men who are portrayed as decent, Harvey Keitel’s empathetic cop and Louise’s ex-lover Michael Madsen. All the rest are either abusive like Thelma’s shitbag husband(a great sleazy turn from Christopher McDonald), date-rapey like the guy Louise ends up shooting, deceptive like Brad Pitt’s cowboy, lewd and crude like the truck driver, or indifferent like most of the cops.

    But the crux of the story is these two women escaping all that shit and trying to find freedom as they head to Mexico. Unfortunately, most of these male assholes are encountered on this journey, so it’s kind of sad that they can’t seem to get a break. And holy shit, it’s a fuckin sad sad tragic ending! Sarandon’s Louise was the most empathetic character to me. There was suggestion she had been violated in the past, which somewhat explains her response to Thelma’s date-rapist.

    I read it as – you can’t escape your past, the shit that happened to you, and the more you run, the worse it gets. The wounds needs to be confronted. Towards the end Thelma brings up Louise’s past wounds and Louise angrily shuts her down and says to never mention it again. But you could see how wounded and angry she was. To me, that makes it even more tragic. It wasn’t her fault to start with, and now look how fucked up things have got. Their final decision to go off the cliff is the only free choice they had left. Forced freedom.

    Also, Im no country music fan but I loved the soundtrack, especially the cover of Van ‘The Motherfucking Man’ Morrison’s Wild Night.

  35. *Sarandons Louise was the most *sympathetic* character to me.

  36. Knox Harrington

    June 20th, 2014 at 7:45 am

    More and more I feel like my tastes are at odds with general consensus, because I watched THE COUNSELOR today and thought it was fucking great!

    It’s pure McCarthy. Loved the dialogue. Loved the procedural structure. And for once Ridley Scott didn’t allow his emphasis on design to overshadow the script.

    I don’t get it. Are people so restricted by the idea of what a modern movie should be that they can’t enjoy something like this? I’ve been watching a lot of French New Wave stuff lately, so maybe that put me in the right frame of mind, but I was so impressed with this film. Can’t wait to watch it again.

  37. I didn’t love this movie but I really enjoyed it. It if features some great scenes and performances. (SPOILERS) The car fucking scene is classic.

  38. Knox Harrington

    June 20th, 2014 at 10:39 am

    If they’d cut this film in half and aired it as a two part HBO mini-series, people would have loved it. Audiences have developed some unhealthy expectations on how a film’s story arc should be constructed and presented.

  39. I really sympathized with Bardem when he got the unasked for windscreen show from Diaz. Sure, his reaction was funny, but I think he was truly disturbed by what he was seeing. I would have been. I think he described what he saw on his window as looking like a snail or a mussel or something totally gross. Fuck, why do some women think that shit is necessary to turn a guy on? Have a bit of class. I had a girlfriend a few years ago who got turned on by certain types of cars, namely Mustangs, which aren’t that common in Australia, and said she liked to get it on on the bonnet of a car she thought was hot. In public. I drive a Mazda, thank God, so she never tried that shit with me. If I am going to watch porn at all(and I don’t anymore), it would be soft-core, because what you don’t see is always sexier in your imagination than when it’s all laid out like a science experiment. Fuck hard-core porn, it kills your creative imagination and de-sexifies sex.

    Anyway, the mostly indifferent reviews kept me away from THE COUNSELOR until now, but I really enjoyed it. It was a good crime film with interesting characters. If I didn’t know R Scott was director upfront I wouldn’t have pegged it as his. It’s not over-directed or hyper-stylized. Someone said Ridley directed this in tribute to his late brother Tony but I didn’t see any evidence of that. No jump-cuts, no ADD-Editing, no bullshit at all really. Nicely shot though. I always admired Ridley’s cinematography. The recently viewed by me Thelma and Louise made me appreciate that even more. It had some impressive mountain and helicopter shots, especially toward the end when the girls are headed toward their rendezvous with death.

  40. Watched the extended cut today. I liked it, though not surprised at the mixed reaction. As I mentioned before it sounded more like something his late brother should have been doing, so it was doubly fitting that it was dedicated to him. Watching it there were a few times I wondered what kind of wonderful craziness Tony Scott could have brought to it. It would be especially interesting to watch it back-to-back with DOMINO, where that visual excess hit it’s peak (to me anyway). But this in comparison is much more muted and reserved, there is violence but the tension is brought out more by decisions and conversations.

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