The Confusing Case of The Counsel(l)or

Today I will talk about the 2013 film The Counselor.

So picture this, it’s early 2013(I imagine), and I am now at a better college, but still going through the motions in life with no gusto or direction. Ridley Scott is Ridley Scott. In terms of his more modern films I had seen Body of Lies and Prometheus in theaters and enjoyed many of his other works both back then and more so recently. Honestly though I didn’t like Prometheus too much, but it did have some great visuals. So I keep tabs on what he is doing and along comes the trailer for The Counselor:

Now this trailer is really something. I find myself watching it again and again in the months leading up to the film. Interestingly the trailer details the entire fucking plot start to finish, along with some of the best bits of dialogue. Quotes I still enjoy to this day; “Money problems are serious problems” and “this world you have created, will also cease to exist.” I am not a fan of that AWOLNATION song but in this trailer it fits shockingly well. The trailer shows you a high budgeted drama from legendary director Ridley Scott, based on a script written by Cormac fucking Mcarthy. I once read somewhere he wrote it in the 80’s, but it’s irrelvelent. Then look at the cast, Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, and Javier Bardem. (In the film more famous actors are revealed in smaller roles. ) So on paper and in this trailer you have a home run but the movie was panned to hell by critics and when I saw it I didn’t know how I felt. I felt something kind of duped maybe, by the aforementioned trailer. Maybe I watched it too many times?

The film was a long and slow watch. The film could have been a stage play, the true art is found in all the dialogue and to a lesser extent the actors and sets. The story is merely a cover or cheap plot device to keep things moving. The plot follows a wealthy lawyer with the world in his hands, he ventures down a dead end path for unknown reasons. It doesn’t speak to reason that a lawyer who drives a Bentley, is engaged to Penelope Cruz would require anymore. It’s either the excitement of doing the crime or the never ending pursuit of wealth. It is however mentioned even in the trailer that a law degree is a “license to steal.” Perhaps white collar crime was not enough for him. So spoiler alert, his life falls apart when his fiancee is kidnapped, murdered and he sees it on a snuff film in Mexico. He survives, everyone else does not except Cameron Diaz’ character. I also read her dialogue was all redone because her Jamaican? accent just didn’t work.

After I saw it once or twice I had to dig deeper, however I could. A direct reference is made to another film I had not seen. Brad Pitt’s character Westray warns the Counselor before they commit to this crime:

“Maybe I should tell you what Mickey Rourke told what’s-his-face? That’s my recommendation anyway, Counselor. Don’t do it. “

Counselor responds quoting the film, “this arson is a serious crime”.

I google that line and find out about Body Heat. I watched it and it’s a pretty good thriller. This movie owes a lot to Body Heat and a direct quote I think is a pretty good way to provide credit. I did start to understand a bit more at this point, the stories are largely the same. Two successful square middle age men both suffer due to a Temptress.

The film also features a Brough Superior SS 100 in the background of one scene which is nuts. It’s a $200,000 motorcycle, and we all know what happens to the Ferrari California, I wonder who owns that vehicle at this moment in time?

Later a unrated extended cut was released. I quickly saw it as I thought ” ah ha!” This will explain it, and also I was more baffled than before, even more brazen and bizarre dialogue. Some of these exchanges are a bit “uneasy and nervewracking”.

Also before the film was released there was a lot of promo and marketing. One piece was some very bizarre one minute dream like scenes/exchanges seemingly shot on set. I found it:

After viewing that clip again, I realize it is entirely possible that it takes place within the “film universe.” The mind reading part is quite interesting, as is the police radio noises at the end. Foreshadowing……..

Even after writing all this my thoughts are far from complete and definitive on this matter. I will insist however that the trailer and marketing of this film are just as baffling as it’s true themes. It really is a great film, but watch it with no expectations or understandings of what the fuck it is and you might get it, or not who knows. Also while “researching” this I noticed in the UK it was released as The Counsellor with two lls, neat.

Gary Rules.

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