I hadn’t watched the long cut in roughly seven years, and I’m telling you it’s aged beautifully — it’s a ruthlessly brilliant, ice-cold film about irrevocable fate and death by way of the Mexican drug cartels. And yet The Counselor‘s throat was cut by most critics, earning a meager 33% and 48% on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, respectively.
The Counselor Bluray includes an excellent “making of” documentary that lasts around…oh, 45 minutes or so. For whatever reason it’s not on YouTube.
Initial HE review: “I was so impressed by the profound assurance, philosophical authority and thematic clarity in Ridley Scott‘s The Counselor (20th Century Fox, 10.25), which I saw last night, that I pleaded with Fox publicists to let me say a few things despite the Thursday afternoon review embargo. They gave me permission to do so.
“I was also very taken by the visually seductive stylings (the dp is Dariusz Wolski with editing by Pietro Scalia) and what I would call a bold but almost reckless indifference to conventional audience expectations for a film of this type.
“Ignore Counselor Naysaysers,” posted on 10.24.13:
“Take no notice of The Counselor‘s 34% Rotten Tomatoes rating. It simply means that a lot of reviewers found the movie unlikable or unpleasant. Or they found it too scary to handle — they had to push it away in order to go on living their lives. But shame on those reviewers who are calling it a bad or poorly made film, or that ‘everyone’s speech is awash in gaudy psycho-blather and Yoda-like observations,’ which is blind bullshit. Or that ‘you can’t believe a word of it.”
“Yes, you can. You can believe every word. You simply have to understand and accept that The Counselor is expressing a cold and clear-eyed view of the Mexican cartel drug business with a very blunt and eloquent voice. It is an undistilled visit to McCarthyland, which is to say the bleak moralistic realm of novelist and (in this instance) first-time screenwriter Cormac McCarthy. You can say “wow, that’s one cold and cruel place” and that’s fine, but you cannot call The Counselor a bad or negligible or sloppily made film. I hereby declare these viewpoints anathema and excommunicate.
“Consider instead the praise from Toronto Star critic Peter Howell and St. Louis Post-Dispatch critic Joe Williams. Or the two hosannahs I posted yesterday. Or consider the words of N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis, who calls Ridley Scott‘s film “terrifying” and “implacable.”
“Mr. Scott’s seriousness isn’t always well served by the scripts he films,” she writes, “but in Mr. McCarthy he has found a partner with convictions about good and evil rather than canned formula. The movie’s title may make cruel sense — the Counselor is a man who himself takes no counsel — but a truer encapsulation of its worldview is [Jean-Paul Sartre‘s] No Exit. Mr. Scott manages all these swiftly spinning parts with impeccable control and a lucid visual style. The story may be initially elusive, but there’s a clarity, solidity and stillness (the camera moves but doesn’t tremble) to his images that augment the narrative’s gravity and inexorable momentum. The beauty of the landscapes is about all that feels coherent in an often unrecognizable, unsettling world.”
You can tell that The Counselor really riled Variety‘s Peter Debruge. His review ends with the following passage: “The industry is too often intimidated by intellect, and this project bears all the signs of perfectly smart, talented people putting their faith in a rotten piece of material simply because it bore McCarthy’s name. When the dust settles, heads are gonna roll, and it won’t be a pretty sight.”
10.23.13: “I recognize that my admiration for The Counselor may be a minority view, but I know a class act when I see and hear one. I love that The Counselor sticks to its thematic guns (including a very tough philosophical view of greed and frailty) and that it doesn’t back off an inch from what McCarthy and Scott are surely aware will be regarded by mainstreamers as an unpopular approach to narrative development and character fate.
“The basic thematic lesson is that there are so many serpents slithering around the Mexican drug business that investing yourself in this realm to any degree is tantamount to suicide. Not exactly fresh information, perhaps, but it’s the singer, not the song. If you’ve seen No Country For Old Men, you know where Cormac McCarthy (who wrote the screenplay for The Counselor without pausing to publish a narrative book version first) is coming from as a storyteller and social forecaster and ethicist.
“The Counselor is an ice-cold morality tale about a very brutal realm, and particularly about a cunning, ruthless and emotion-less character who is played very impressively by Cameron Diaz.”
Amazon guy: “This is the most important film for the 21st Century. I absolutely love it. It functions like a Faustian play, a grim prophesy of humanity’s future. The story is one we have all seen before. Man gets involved with dealing drugs, and he is not prepared for the consequences. The drug deal goes very bad. That is the story. It is a simple and familiar story. But the presentation is the beauty. The horrific themes and imagery. The dark worldview that transforms this standard plot into a brilliant nightmare. Above all, it is a condemnation of modern culture, where man is divorced from the realities of his actions, because Nature (both ecological and human) is treated as an externality.
“Yes, the dialogue is philosophical and ‘over-the-top.’ It functions very much like a Shakespearian play (and pulls it off). This is Scott’s best film, and an amazing script by McCarthy. It is a beautiful work of art, and deserves multiple views. The acting is outstanding. Brad Pitt is tragically self-aware. Cameron Diaz gives the performance of her career. This film’s themes are essential for our coming world. Very violent and haunting. Don’t listen to all the negative reviews. Watch this film and make up your own mind. Think and sense for yourself.”