The Counsellor opens with Michael Fassbender underneath the sheets with Penelope Cruz having a little, erm shall we say, protein supplement? Anyway, she’s lapping it up (strictly speaking though, he is.).
So far, what’s there not to like? Cruz looks ravishing as she approaches 40. My wife tells me Fassbender always looks ravishing.
It’s a gentle opening to a movie that at times is anything but.
It’s been deeply criticised in many reviews I’ve read for the quality of the stellar cast’s acting and commitment (Cruz, Bardem, Pitt, Fassbender and Diaz) but I enjoyed each and every performance.
It’s also been deeply criticised for the script. Now that, to a point, I can hold sway with.
As the world’s greatest living fiction writer, frustrated by his screen adaptations (No Country for Old Men and The Road), Cormac McCarthy felt it was time to put pen to screenplay paper for the first time.
In many ways he shouldn’t have because whole scenes are impenetrable guff. And the plot is nothing short of labyrinthine.
And yet. It works.
It’s a languid, stunningly shot (Dariusz Wolski Prometheus/Sweeney Todd) modern day mafia movie/Western set in El Paso,Texas and at times in Mexico.
The film’s plot centres on Fassbender (The Counsellor) who gets himself embroiled in a drug deal that essentially goes wrong. It gets messy but that’s not really, for me, the soul of the film.
The soul of it is about female power; their power over men, both sexually and emotionally, and that’s what actually makes it both a superior movie but also leads to some of McCarthy’s excesses. They might have worked in a novel but appear clunky on screen in places.
Diaz and Cruz present opposite ends of the female control spectrum (Cruz womanly and traditional, Diaz a ball breaker). It’s interesting casting because Cruz smoulders in her advancing years and plays the “girl next door”; Diaz, by contrasts, often looks a bit blokey (yes – come on, she’s always been one of the boys – There’s Something about Mary)
She’s ageing (sorry to be so frank but she looks more than her two score years and one in this) but that kinds of adds to her menace. For pets she keeps cheetahs. Cheetahs that hunt Jack Rabbits on the Texan plains. She likes the kills.
The scene by the pool in which Diaz grills Cruz oh her taste in men clearly positions Diaz as the Alpha female and so the movie goes on to prove.
There’s lots of aA list men in this movie but Diaz is the power broker.
In conclusion. Don’t believe all the negative reviews. This is a flawed gem that has much to recommend it.