A little more than a year ago, news came that a cinematic dream team had been assembled: Cormac McCarthy, one of the greatest living fiction writers, had authored a screenplay, and Ridley Scott was attached to direct it. Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, and Anthon Chigurh himself—Javier Bardem, who played that McCarthy-created villain—were attached to star. Expectations inched up further.
Now the film, called The Counselor, has its first trailer—and I, for one, am still excited, if also a tad wary.
The plot is obscured but for a few choice details: Fassbender, referred to simply as “Counselor,” ventures to the American wilderness and gets ensnared in a web of decadence and decay. Entangled with him is that stacked supporting cast, all whom seem ethically absent and more than a little crazy. McCarthy has said that the script focuses on a respected lawyer (Fassbender) trying his hand in the drug business and grappling with his due comeuppance.
The obvious comparison is 2007’s No Country for Old Men, the Coen brothers’ McCarthy adaptation that featured a similar premise: guy stumbles upon lots of cash; guy goes on the run from vigilantes; movie transfixes audience through a slowly building, coiled tension and the jarring presence of Javier Bardem. Granted, Scott seems to have given The Counselor a frenetic feel, in contrast to the Coens’ atmospheric masterpiece (no surprise there, coming from the director of Alien, Gladiator, and American Gangster). But for now, the film seems to be somewhat retreading old ground with fresh talent.
It’ll be interesting, though, to see how McCarthy’s spare, elegiac prose translates on screen this time around. No Country for Old Men actually began as a screenplay before he hammered it into a novel, so he has a penchant for the format. And the last two film adaptations of his work—No Country and The Road—were widely seen as successful uses of his source material.
Only time will tell with this one, but in the meantime, I’m going to lament the incredibly corny ending to the trailer, which implores viewers to sacrifice their self-respect and use the hashtag #haveyoubeenbad. No, thank you.