Jan 30, 2014

The Counselor (2013)

In my opinion Sir Ridley Scott (and to a greater extent, his belated little brother Tony) epitomizes what one might describe as an ‘artisan filmmaker,’ as a director who is clearly a master of technique and calculatingly constructing films as if he were a carpenter of celluloid, yet lacks a true personal vision (after all, the only film he ever wrote a screenplay for was for his early short Boy and Bicycle (1956), which was made when he was a photography student) and thus cannot be described as a real auteur (after all, how could one ever compare someone like Ridley to real cinematic artists like Pasolini, Fassbinder, Herzog, Syberberg, etc.?!). That being said, it seems that the quality of Scott’s films relies heavily on the script that he decides to use for a film and there is probably no better example of this than his most recent celluloid effort The Counselor (2013), which was penned by contemporary Southern Gothic novelist Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian, No Country for Old Men) in what was ultimately the writer’s first attempt at writing a film screenplay. Until recently, as far as I was concerned, the last great film Scott made was Blade Runner (1982) as he seems to have been constructing absurdly asinine and insipid eye-candy ever since, with his pseudo-pre-sequel to Alien (1979), Prometheus (2012), being the height of the famed filmmaker’s action-packed and slickly stylized soulless celluloid products, yet The Counselor proved to a welcomed shock for me, if not a visually irrelevant one. As with any highly literary and philosophically inclined work with an unhappy ending and a tasty tinge of political incorrectness underscored by decidedly depressing unpopular human truths, The Counselor has been largely panned by both mainstream film critics and filmgoers alike as a work that was clearly made for an undeserving and proudly uncultivated audience that also creamed their panties for Martin Scorsese’s 3+ hour music video tribute to American Hebraic psychopathy, The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). A sort of pre-North American Civil War Breaking Bad (in fact, Dean ‘Hank Schrader’ Norris has a small role in the film as a rich coke buyer) with the tragic poetic eloquence of Shakespeare, the penetrating pessimism and scathing cynicism of Schopenhauer, and the tastelessly charming cracker sociology of Jim Goad, The Counselor is a somewhat delightful downer of a mainstream movie that unequivocally proves that pretty plastic Hollywood people can appear quasi-sophisticated if given the right lines to read. A nasty and even nihilistic Southwestern Gothic where wimpy white collar lawyers, ruthlessly murderous Mestizo drug cartels, naïve Catholic girls, ferocious car-fucking femme fatales, head-decapitating-wires, and snuff films collide in a celluloid cultural clash made in the Armageddon-stirring age of globalization and ‘Reconquista’ of the Aztlán by brown hordes with nothing to lose, The Counselor is the sort of film that slaps the viewer in the face and then proceeds to bugger their body, hence the work’s lack of acceptance among the escapism-humping American public. A film that essentially depicts a white collar criminal's worst night, The Counselor tells the aesthetically and thematically torrid tale of a relatively young and handsome hotshot lawyer enslaved to love who becomes immersed in an intricate one-off drug deal with a Mexican drug cartel that goes terribly wrong as a result of bad luck and a lethally lecherous female fatale whose ‘naughty bits’ are described by her Brian Grazer-look-alike boyfriend (Javier Bardem) as having suction properties equivalent to that of a bottom-feeder fish. 

 A charming statuesque lawyer simply known as ‘The Counselor’ (played by rather talented Irish-German actor Michael Fassbender) wants to pop the question to his nice and loving yet terribly naïve long-distance girlfriend Laura (Penélope Cruz), so he decides to woo her by flying all the way to Amsterdam (the Dutch capital city is home to Coster Diamonds, one of the oldest diamond polishing factories in the world, thus demonstrating the Counselor's desire to buy only the best for his girlfriend)  to buy a nice sized rock from a Sephardic Jewish Diamond Dealer (ironically played by Bruno Ganz, who is best known around the world for portraying Hitler in Downfall (2004) aka Der Untergang). On top of buying a nice and expensive engagement ring for his beloved Latina, the Counselor is given a nice and long free-of-charge rant from the Diamond Dealer about the superiority and corrosive power that is the international Hebrew nation and how, “Every country that has driven out the Jews has suffered the same fate.” Naturally, Laura accepts the Counselor’s rather awkward wedding proposal, but the lawyer is also strapped for cash as a result of buying the wedding ring so he rather reluctantly decides to get involved in a major one-time coke deal with his party boy Mestizo friend Reiner (Javier Bardem)—a legit entrepreneur and club owner who moonlights as an underworld drug kingpin and who lives a lavishly lecherous lifestyle, hence his need for greed—but little does he realize that his friend’s psychopathic girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz) has plans of her own. A wickedly wanton woman whose ‘pussy power’ literally scares her boyfriend Reiner (who tells the Counselor a story about how she freaked him out after she fucked his car and drenched his windshield with her girl juices), Malkina (a name derived from ‘Grimalkin’ which means an evil looking female cat) is a fierce femme fatale of the sociopath-chic variety who has cheetah print tattoos and literally gets sexually aroused by the sight of her two pet cheetahs (Raoul and Silvia) “bringing down jackrabbits at 70 miles an hour” and uses all people, including her friends and boyfriend, for her own personal gain. Left an emotionally brutalized bastard at the age of 3 after her parents were apparently thrown out of a helicopter into the Atlantic Ocean and eventually working her way up in the world as a seductive stripper, Malkina disguises her internal pain with her stunning beauty and by flashing around her dubiously obtained wealth. When the Counselor makes the unwitting mistake of helping a client, a Mexican murderess named Ruth (Rosie Perez), by bailing out her crotch-rocket-riding son—a high level member of a drug cartel known simply as ‘The Green Hornet’ (Richard Cabral) who likes freaking out white girls by telling them he is on a steady diet of dog food—he basically marks himself, his girlfriend, and all his business partners as dead men. 

 If the Counselor had taken the advice of wise-ass middleman dealer named Westray (Brad Pitt)—a cynical fellow who might have been a philosopher and/or a monk had he lived in a less decadent age—regarding not getting involved with the drug cartel, which is responsible for sex slavery and snuff films, the meta-tragic route his life inevitably takes could have been easily avoided. Seemingly more knowledgeable about her boyfriend’s drug business (and, in turn, the Counselor's) than he is, Malkina hires a sinisterly stoic dude known as “The Wireman” (Sam Spruell) to kill drug runner Green Hornet (who is carrying a key to a sewage truck containing barrels with $20 million dollars worth of cocaine) to steal the very same drug supply that the Counselor and his friends are tied to. Naturally, after the drug cartel realizes that the Counselor bailed out the Green Hornet from jail, they doubt the timing was a coincidence and assume the lawyer was the one responsible for killing their comrade and attempting to steal their cocaine. Eventually, two drug cartel members dressed as cops kill the Wireman and take back the drugs, thus Malkina’s scheme falls through. In no time, Reiner is accidentally killed while attempting to flee from members of the drug cartel and the Counselor’s fiancée is beaten and kidnapped. Meanwhile, Westray takes a plane to London in an attempt to evade the wrath of the drug lords. When the Counselor attempts to reach out to a high-ranking member of the cartel named Jefe (Rubén Blades) in a desperate attempt to save Laura, he is told there is nothing he can do and that he must be a man and accept his unfortunate fate as a marked man who made an unwise decision long ago that cannot be changed. In an act of complete impotence, the Counselor goes to Mexico to find Laura, but ends up doing a lot of drinking and crying instead due to his undying guilt. Meanwhile, Malkina, who is determined to get rich quick since her prior scheme fell through and her sugar daddy Reiner is dead, decides to track down Westray (who she apparently previously had an affair with and knows how to manipulate) in London and uses a stunning hired slut (Westray’s admitted sole weakness is women) played by Natalie Dormer to steal his bank codes and social security number. Westray is ultimately killed when Malkina pays a hired goon to throw a so-called ‘bolito’ (a mechanical device with a battery-operated motor that wraps a wire around the victim’s neck until their carotid arteries are severed and, in some cases, their head pops off) around his neck. Meanwhile, the Counselor receives a mysterious DVD-R with “Hola!” written on it, which assumedly features a snuff video of Laura being executed (the next scene features Laura's decapitated body being dumped in a landfill). In the end, queen bitch Malkina is victorious and tells her banker (Goran Višnjić) about her plans to head to China and convert all of her money into diamonds.  After all, diamonds are a girl's best friend, especially when you're a cross between Ted Bundy and Marilyn Monroe.

 In one of the more philosophical scenes early on in The Counselor, the old Jewish diamond dealer delivers the following spiel to the eponymous protagonist of the film in regard to the cultural wasteland that is modern Spain and the historical legacy of world Jewry: “There’s no culture save for the Semitic culture there. The last known culture before that was the Greek, and there will be no culture after. Nothing. The heart of any culture is to be found in the nature of the hero… In the classical world, it is the warrior, but in the Western world it is the man of God. From Moses to Christ. The prophet, the penitent. Such a figure is unknown to the Greeks. Unheard of, unimaginable…because there is only a man of God, not a man of gods, and this god is the god of the Jewish people. There is no other god. We see him—what is the word? Uh…purloined. Purloined in the West. How do you steal a God? The Jew beholds his tormentor dressed in the vestments of his own ancient culture. Everything bears a strange familiarity. But the fit is always poor and the hands are always dripping blood.” Indeed, one would assume from the old Heeb's rant that the sorry state of the miserable and cultureless Mexico depicted in The Counselor was Sephardic revenge for the ancient execution of Marrana Jew Francisca Nuñez de Carabajal in ‘New Spain’ (aka Spanish colonial Mexico) in 1596 during the Inquisition. Indeed, with his previous effort American Gangster (2007) where Australian goy Russell Crowe plays a Hebrew hammer of a detective who proudly sports a Star of David gold chain, as well as his upcoming Biblical epic Exodus (2014), flagrant philo-Semite Ridley Scott has never shied away from expressing his career-securing solidarity with the self-described chosen amongst God’s chosen and The Counselor is no different, but luckily the film is as culturally pessimistic as Hollywood films come as a work that depicts Mexico as a rabid mongrel beast with the brain of a demented demon that would love nothing more than to slowly torture and dismember pussy America to its bloated jelly-filled Judaic core. After telling the rather humorous joke, “you want to know why Jesus wasn’t born in Mexico? He couldn’t find three wise men or a virgin,” criminal sage Westray warns the Counselor with the following words regarding the true motivation of the Mexican drug cartels: “Hey Counselor, here’s something else to consider: The beheadings and the mutilations—that’s just business. Gotta keep up appearances. It’s not like there’s some smoldering rage at the bottom of it. Let’s see if we can guess who it is they really want to kill. You, Counselor. You.” Indeed, savagely snuffing out white collar, white lawyers must be a rather refined delicacy when you live in a country where running water is a luxury and you can purchase dismembered teenage girls for less than a pretty penny. 

 On top of frying criminally organized beaners to the point of seeming like the most uniquely ugly and unhinged, radically repellant, and decidedly perverted people in the world, The Counselor features a number of ‘misogynistic’ aphorisms in the spirit of Weininger (albeit, of the dime store sort) like, “Women have funny ideas about sex. They’re supposed to be so modest. Yeah (chuckles). Let me tell you, when they get it in their heads how they want to fuck, they’re like a freight train.” And, indeed, the sexually sadistic she-bitch played by Cameron Diaz quite openly admits that she believes that sexuality and sadism are not mutually exclusive but inherently connected, as she sternly professes that the weakness of humans when compared to that of natural predators (aka her pet cheetahs) of the wild is as follows: “It is our faintness of heart that has driven us to the edge of ruin. Perhaps you won’t agree, but nothing is crueler than a coward. And the slaughter to come…is probably beyond our imagining.”  Needless to say, the mayhem-splattered Mexico of The Counselor has a big black heart flowing with cheap tequila, cocaine and, most importantly, pure and unadulterated hate and bloodlust.  Indeed, as a country that has been left relatively unscathed by virtually all of the major wars of the last century and is populated by a nation of superlatively spoiled people (even the poor live like kings in the good old USA!) who absurdly believe their nation is invincible and is exempt from the sort of poverty and chaos that plagues the majority of the world, America certainly has no idea what is in store for it is if the Mexican drug cartels take control and/or the North American continent enters a racial civil war. Of course, the coward of The Counselor, aside from America in general (indeed, it is no coincidence that Diaz's character snidely states to a semi-morally-minded young lady, “You know what I like about Americans? You can depend on them.”), is the Counselor as demonstrated by his dubious actions in the face of fear and a telling remark made by a bitter ex-client: “the Counselor here has a way of sullin’ up like a possum when he don’t get his own way. I’m gonna say you probably noticed it. And that ain’t really the problem. The real problem is, is his thin skin makes it okay in his eyes for you to wind up under the bus.” Indeed, aside from the scheming femme fatale played by Diaz, it is ultimately the Counselor’s shifty behavior and cowardice that lead his fiancée and friends to the slaughter. While featuring the aesthetic prowess of the latest sportscar commercial, The Counselor at least has enough patently pessimistic food-for-thought to keep the most culturally pessimistic of Blade Runner fans reasonably happy. That being said, one can only assume that The Counselor receives the prestige that Blade Runner would eventually achieve after a decade or so, but somehow I doubt it as Americans are only getting stupider and stupider as their country goes to the untermensch dogs and international moneychangers. 

-Ty E

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