So, this week I went and saw The Counselor, the much-touted flick that had so many of us salivating for the past year while they teased us with clips. Before going, I did read a few reviews that managed to lower my expectations. Which, to be honest, were pretty fuckin’ high.
You see, I love Cormac McCarthy. I was lucky enough to read No Country For Old Men and The Road before ever laying eyes on the movies. With The Counselor, I had no choice. The thing was written as a screenplay, under a veil of secrecy, directly for the big screen. A published version of the screenplay wasn’t even available till the movie came out. Cormac is a heavyweight now and offers were made as soon as the idea of writing a screenplay left his mouth. Ridley Scott hopped on, and a multi-million-dollar cast soon followed.
Imagine my sinking heart when the bad reviews began to pile up.
Now, those stinking critics have done this to me before. The hated Killing Them Softly, a movie that I loved and still think is a great example of a real crime film. They hated that movie for all the reasons I loved it. (Nowhere in that entire flick were two guns pointed at each other, there is no love story, no car chase, and none of the other earmarks of banal Hollywood filmmaking.) I had to assume that The Counselor was going to be the same way. And, for the most part, it was.
Don’t get me wrong, The Counselor is a flawed movie, and much of the bad press you’re hearing about it is true, but … it is a true work of Cormac McCarthy.
In many ways, The Counselor, is a sequel to No Country for Old Men. Somewhere in No Country, which takes place in the early eighties, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell ponders what will be the future of the drug trade in the Southwest. He considers the sick shit people are willing to do for the obscene amounts of money and wonders, if it continues, what ring of hell they’ll pull the whole country down into. Roll forward thirty years and Cormac gives us the answer in The Counselor.
Some of the reviews I’ve read stated the film goes nowhere, that it’s too depressing. One even said it was too nihilistic. Oh, c’mon. It’s Cormac McCarthy, what the hell did you expect? This is a guy who’s not known for happy endings and wrapping things up in an unbelievable ball. In other words, when bad shit happens, well … bad shit happens.
Taking a page from The Road, the counselor has no name, he is only referred to as the counselor. He’s a lawyer pulled into a bad situation by greed and hubris. I won’t dish spoilers out here, but things go wrong and there is no way to resolve them. The people he deals with live lavish lives and, on some levels, are hard to take and tough to buy into. That’s my real complaint with the flick. I think Cormac’s dialogue is at its best when he’s bouncing it between some good ol’ boys or some Southern ne’re do wells. The movie’s dialogue is laden with some heavy philosophy and it can get a bit hard to swallow. Having a character or two that are seriously introspective would have been enough, but at some point I found myself wondering if everyone needed to speak with such eloquence. There’s a brief scene where the counselor and his fiancé are having lunch and an ex-client comes by their table to have a few verbal jabs with his old lawyer. His cadence is something I think Cormac is more comfortable with. It’s part of what made No Country so special—the down-home philosophy of Ed Tom Bell and Llewelyn Moss. That being said, I thought the movie was great. Fuck the critics, no actually, listen to them, just know how to read between the lines. The thumbs-down they give is often a finger pointing my straight to the theater.