Friday, March 28, 2014

The Movie You Are Too Scared To See

Ridley Scott and Cameron Diaz

More than once filmmaker Ridley Scott has defied Hollywood and audience expectations by bringing an unusual writer's work to the screen - Joseph Conrad ("The Duellists"), Phillip K. Dick ("Blade Runner") - and his film of writer Cormac McCarthy's first screenplay, "The Counselor", confounded critics and some audiences. But the film distills the grim and rare voice of McCarthy's take on crime, which isn't about car chases and wisecracking  buddy cops. It's a world with no heroes, no redemption.

McCarthy's story rolls out in the brutal world of drug trafficking, cartels and the barren borderlands. The cartels alone make the gangsters of American legend look like Boy Scouts. In this tale, a would-be drug deal goes bad and the cost is beyond horrifying. It's a predatory world, relentless and without morality.

It's daring, this descent into the darkness. It offers a femme fatale (Cameron Diaz) who devours everyone with pure ferocity. And perhaps it is much too honest - the viewer is without a safe haven, and most movies today just don't go there or close to there.

Scott had been trying to develop McCarthy's very dark Western novel, "Blood Meridian", into a film but Hollywood couldn't handle it - he says "It would have been rated double-X. It’s Hieronymus Bosch, the way McCarthy describes the first time you see several hundred horses with bones and feathers on them, and you can’t see a rider until you’re staring at the Comanche. It’s horrific. He writes in visual images which are spectacular, so it suits me down to the ground."

The truth, the reality of what's happening in the Southwest and Mexico as drug cartels slaughter their way to impossible wealth is hard to believe. And this film reveals what happens to a handful of people who venture into that wasteland. No romantic criminals here, no good guys rush in to save the day. 

"The Counselor" isn't a film for mainstream consumers - it's a complex and unflinching view of dark hearts in a sun-baked desert. It is one of the most haunting movies you'll ever see.


  1. I've been hoping for a good review for this one. Hard to find. You never steer me wrong JP. I'll check it out. Have you watched Spring Breakers yet?

  2. Tried to watch Spring Breakers - lost interest as it played. Korine has a style but it's not one that compels me to keep watching.