If you were to google the synopsis for The Counselor, you’re probably just going to get “A lawyer finds himself in over his head when he gets involved in drug trafficking,” (via IMDB). How sad is it that’s really the best I could ever come up with? I mean, for such an ensemble, you’d think you’d get something far more gripping. Unfortunately, we’re kind of left with a mess. Minor spoilers ahead.
To be honest, The Counselor is a fairly obtuse film – it is so far removed we have to grasp at mere implications in order to understand if we are indeed witnessing some sort of significance. Similarly, most of the time the dialogue comes off just as detached, if not absurd. Then, in some brief, wonderful moments, we get a tiny taste of the bigger picture.
This leads to the assessment that this is a movie that is truly based on the abstract notions of power and manipulation. This being said, I think the most frequent topic of conversation throughout this film was women and sex, interchangeably.
In a time of over-sexualization and slut-shaming, the use of sex in this film is about as intriguing as it is baffling (a car, really?). Sure it can be argued that it reflects upon respective partners (Counselor and Laura being more intimate, and Malkina and Reiner are extravagant and insane), but within the context of the story it’s really all about control. Doesn’t make it any less sexist. Or forced, for that matter.
In the case of Malkina (Diaz), it’s things go from excessive to ridiculous. I get that this is a woman who thrives on extravagance and greed, but I’m not exactly sure why we should care – to prove there’s always a bigger fish? The shift in masculinity from hunter to hunted? Both are a possible.
I’m sorry, but why was there even a scene in which she tries to confess to a priest? This scene is pure redundancy – yes, she is hypersexual and understands that women have more motives than men realize. Yes, we get that she has very little moral obligation. We get this from our first conversation with her. Maybe I just need to watch it again – I might have missed something.
Speaking of characterizations, at least our nameless protagonist serves as a realistic expectation of your greed-ridden everyman (so pretty much anybody, but with money). In Cormac McCarthy’s other tales, the characters’ notions of right and wrong become increasingly blurred, and there is always a shadow of doubt and fear, not to mention the inevitable clash between the agonist – thus greed prevails.
In Counselor’s (Fassbender) case, he is an acquisitive man and is warned against playing with the big boys. With much arrogance he ignores this warning, and due to guilt by association, he becomes a target, unknowingly dragging sweet and naive Laura (Cruz) down with him. Ultimately, he is a man of many mistakes and regrets – not to mention a lack of resolution. Though it would be great to see him fight the powers at be, he accepts that this is the unchanging reality. It is neither satisfying nor happy. Yeah, that’s a good way to describe the whole shebang.
The Counselor is a work of muddled dialogue and overabundance. We are subjected to a world of avarice and extravagance with very little payoff. Bad people are bad. Tell me something I don’t know. Even Anton Chigurh showed an inkling of obligation. Though the cast does their best to try to make something out of… something else, their effort gets lost in the noise.
Final Grade: C-