You can’t just plaster Cameron Diaz with makeup and turn her into Tommy Lee Jones. Rather, let’s take a step back: You can’t take a celebrated novelist and turn him into a remarkable—-nor, apparently, even mediocre—-screenwriter. The Counselor, directed by Ridley Scott, is Cormac McCarthy’s first big-screen script. And No Country for Old Men it’s not. Hell, it’s not even The Road.
Ironically, the problem is the words. Dialogue that’s elliptical and abstract; conversations full of analogies, parables, questions, and “I don’t know”s. (Seriously. The last time you heard so many IDKs is when you were within earshot of a hair-twirling teen on her cell phone.) The lines lean misogynistic, not to mention flat-out unnatural: “Truth has no temperature.” “Life is being in bed with you. Everything else is just waiting.” “I think that falls under the category of ‘Tough Shit.’”
And out of what makes up the action, the scene you’ll remember most vividly is Diaz’s Malkina fucking a car.
Malkina is the girlfriend of Reiner (Javier Bardem with unfortunate hair), but names hardly matter because to care about characters, or merely keep track of who’s doing what, you have to have a story. Michael Fassbender stars as the counselor (see? he’s not given a name), who, according to the synopsis, is normally a stand-up guy but decides to dabble in a little drug trafficking. (Apparently not counting as “life,” because according to him, that’s being in bed with Penélope Cruz’s Laura.) He deals with Reiner as well as Westray (Brad Pitt, fully scuzzed out). There are also some cheetahs.
How or why the counselor got mixed up in seediness isn’t explained; nor is his exact contribution to the deal or what goes wrong. (At least you can tell something goes wrong.) More bad men show up and disappear, and there’s blood and a beheading. And as Diaz scowls, Bardem looks goofy, and Pitt like he needs a shower, Fassbender is tasked with first playing suave and then incredibly naive, easily brought to tears by stories of retribution as he whispers “Jesus! God!” as if he thought trafficking drugs was no more dangerous than selling ice cream.
Even worse than the lack of story is the film’s apparent mimicry of No Country’s brilliant final scene. Here, Diaz apes Jones’ transfixing but open-ended monologue with a talk about the sexuality of the aforementioned cheetahs catching their prey and other nonsense before the screen goes black. That, I think, falls under the category of just “shit.”