You can't watch The Counselor in the typical, play with your iPhone and catch the subtext in between setting off angry Facebook wars. Cameron Diaz cryptically deliberating with Javier Bardem in the New Mexico desert as they spy their pet cougars, a green clad biker racing to nowhere at 200 MPH, Michael Fassbender discussing the reflective quality of nitrogen in the diamond he will spring on Penelope Cruz, and the deal the successful lawyer is about to engage in with a Mexican Drug Cartel. You could easily be lulled to sleep amongst a very sedate dialogue. I was and almost turned it off. But that made the Ridley Scott film all the more chilling as I watched a second time and the beginning and end were seared together in real time.
So if you're paying attention, it doesn't take long to gage the mercury levels in Diaz's heart. "The truth has no temperature," she coldly explains to Bardem on the futility of bringing back lost love.
Fassbender, as the title character, has no such concern as he and Cruz are locked in. "Everything else is just waiting until we're together," he professes his captivation.
Still, Bardem as his partner tries to deter Fassbeender's professional decent. "If you pursue this road that you've embarked upon, you will eventually come to moral decisions that will take you completely by surprise. You won't see it coming at all," he instructs as the reckless cartel facilitator, Reiner.
Closer to where the counselor eats, Reiner foretells how ambiguity inside the business model translates to danger and makes his point in a device called a bolito. "It has this small electric motor with this rather incredible compound gear that retrieves a steel cable. Battery driven. And the cable is made out of some unholy alloy, almost impossible to cut it. And it's in a loop. And you come up behind the guy and you drop it over his head. And you pull the free end of the cable tight and walk away. No one ever even sees you. And pulling the cable activates the motor and the noose starts to tighten. And it continues to tighten until it goes to zero," Bardem revels in the dissertation.
Nonetheless, Fassbender chooses denial and feigns it very well as he assumes the cause of death is "strangulation."
Bardem doesn't miss a beat and continues his public service message for Fassbender. "The wire cuts through the carotid arteries. Then sprays blood all over the spectators and everybody goes home," Bardem is wholly resigned the potential costs.
But Fassbender thinks he's up to it. "Sweet," his denial goes into high gear.
On to Brad Pitt, the middle man. He doesn't hesitate either to educate Fassbender and the calculating ruthlessness of the cartel suffices as the lesson plan. "And, Counselor, here's something else to consider. The beheadings and the mutilations? That's just business. You gotta keep up appearances," Pitt opines his wisdom. "It's not like there's some smoldering rage beneath it."
A slight crack does appears in the facade but where does Diaz fit in. We get a sense as Bardem freely offers that he would rather not know how much she knows about his business dealings.
Even so, a little female cunning gets a mandatory dismiss - especially since Fassbender has come this far. Instead Bardem begins to crumble and his guilt takes shape in the form of providing full disclosure. "Why are you telling me this," Fassbender asks as Reiner recants a piece of sexual history that would make Tawny Katian weep and allows the seasoned criminal to start deducing disaster
But just because her onscreen sleaze and material yearnings begs a bath for anyone in range, are we sure the unraveling falls on her?
No matter, as the Counselor's world crumbles, all that's really left for Fassbender is perspective. "Dying is easy," his contact inside the cartel soothes him and is on point.
Attention spans on both sides of the plasma now getting their due, the ending will leave you in a shudder.