Cormac McCarthy and Ridley Scott were bound to be an odd couple in any case. All the richly composed and poetic dialogue in the world doesn’t disguise the fact The Counselor is basically a grimy, scuzzy, sleazy, feel-bad potboiler.
There is an element of pulp to several of McCarthy’s novels, but here it’s brought to the forefront. As highly regarded as he is as a literary novelist, his subject matter is still mostly comprised of cowboys, bandits, whores, thieves, madmen, and murderers.
This is Ridley Scott in full erotic thriller mode (see Black Rain and Someone to Watch Over Me). He has somewhat tamped down the extremely grainy stylization he used to employ (especially in Gladiator and Black Hawk Down), opting instead for a sun-blazed Miami Vice-like palette. Perhaps McCarthy should pitch his next screenplay to Michael Mann?
Most impressive is the huge all-star cast. Even the smallest roles are populated by familiar faces (watch for Rosie Perez, Dean Norris, and John Leguizamo). I have never been one of those people who dislike Cameron Diaz (her most famous detractor being perhaps Sophia Coppola who lampooned her in Lost in Translation), but here she is perhaps the weakest link.
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