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White Powder on the Scales of Justice

MOVIE REVIEW
The Counselor (2013)

The-counselor-movie-review-michael-fassbender-brad-pitt
Kerry Brown/20th Century Fox

Some movies are made to stir the intellect and demonstrate what humans are truly capable of. Some movies are made to arouse the senses and explore every nuance of physical and emotional sensation. Some movies are made to astonish with colossal danger and showmanship, whether through real stunts or incredible virtual effects. And some movies are made to be watched by horny virgins who are stoned out of their gourds. “The Counselor” is most definitely the latter.

Not since “Blue Velvet” has Hollywood gone so high- and low-brow in a single movie. “The Counselor” looks great, has outstanding costume design and a real feel for the interior design tastes of midlevel drug dealers in Texas and Mexico. It has Cameron Diaz — with a perfect manicure and covered in cheetah tattoos — doing unspeakable things to her boyfriend’s Ferrari (more on which later). It also has Rosie Perez offering to give Michael Fassbender a blow job. THIS MOVIE HAS ROSIE PEREZ IN IT. And it is so bad it will undoubtedly become a classic like “Showgirls.”

Do Ridley Scott — who has embarrassed himself by directing this — and Cormac McCarthy — who has really embarrassed himself by writing this mash-up of every idea Luc Besson and Robert Rodriguez have ever had — have teenage sons they want to impress? Is that why they have put together this ludicrous fantasy, almost entirely cobbled together from other, better movies, of what can go wrong when you get mixed up with drugs?

The unnamed lawyer (Mr. Fassbender) works for midlevel dealer Reiner (Javier Bardem, who looks like Sonic the Hedgehog dressed like a funfair gorilla), who lives with and is intimidated by Malkina (Ms. Diaz). “The Counselor” decides — after many long boring conversations which do not foreshadow anything to happen later in the movie at all — to make a deal himself, and enlists the help of Westtray (Brad Pitt in a cowboy hat). The drugs are hidden in a sewage truck, which is a profound metaphor. Then hark! Something goes wrong! “The Counselor’s” pretty girlfriend Laura (Penélope Cruz) agrees to run away with him to Boise, Idaho. Will those two crazy kids get out alive?

The only interesting thing in this movie is the character of Malkina, and the choice that Ms. Diaz made to portray her. The character is so much the embodiment of male fears about women that she degrades herself on the windshield of her boyfriend’s car in order to put him permanently and completely in her power. She also has two pet cheetahs, for the love of Pete. It’s awesome in the exact same way that Michael Bay’s movies are feminist, which means that you are both entranced by the spectacle and laughing hysterically at the stupidness. It is brave of Ms. Diaz to play this part, and entertaining if you’re smart enough not to take it seriously for one second. But the movie’s trouble is that it does. It takes everything all so seriously. It’s insulting to women when it shows that women only have power in the same way middle-school boys think middle-school girls do. It’s insulting to men to show that the only way to riches and excellent sex is through beheading anyone who gets in your way. And with dialogue including such priceless gems as “I think the truth has no temperature,” it’s actually just insulting to everyone.

If you want a movie where an unnamed handsome man is involved in the drugs trade and has both deep conversations and women flinging themselves at him, see “Layer Cake.” If you want a movie where diamonds are used as heavy-handed metaphors for women, see “L’Appartement” or even “Wicker Park.” If you want a movie where Ms. Perez burns a hole in the screen with her unjustly underappreciated awesomeness, then see any other movie she has ever made, ever (but start with “Untamed Heart”). But unless you are a friendless 13-year-old desperate for anything which purports to tell you about what being an adult is like — and even if you are — don’t see “The Counselor.”

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