Sunday, October 27, 2013


I can not dismiss the artistry of Cormac McCarthy as easily as his detractors. And I will not read any kind of depth into his nihilism, as would his defenders. I certainly agree that McCarthy is the guiding auteur of this thing more than director Ridley Scott, but what the hell do we get out of it?

Perhaps his detractors, finding his shallow worldview given such a clear and uncluttered depiction here, are realizing that they overpraised NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN back in the day, and trying to backtrack. McCarthy's "we're trapped by our bad decisions, everything and everyone is fucked" semi-philosophy always struck me as high school-level nihilism. Even given a high shine and executed by strong actors, as it is here, it's still high school nihilism. Such a worldview is better (or is at least more honestly) played for comedy, as the Coens did in their post-NO COUNTRY project BURN AFTER READING, or as Javier Bardem does in his fantastic monologue in this movie, recalling his girlfriend's sexual encounter with his car.

The movie moves with style and grace, and does find variations on its one-note message. McCarthy's style tends to give each member of the cast the same voice (much in the manner of Tarantino or Sorkin). Happily, there is poetry in that language, and the movie's greatest gift is letting its veteran cast go to town with fairly lengthy and eloquent passages (among the supporting players, Bruno Ganz finds fine purchase in his scene as an eternally wise diamond merchant; Ruben Blades offers a perfect sardonic world-weariness to his own summation near the end of the movie). But in the end its all lip service to the same petty, faux-deep nihilism, and no matter how eloquently it delivers its message, THE COUNSELOR can't hide the fact that it isn't saying a damn thing.

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