What you get out of the sleek crime drama “The Counselor” will be determined largely by what you want to get out of it.
If you’re seeking intriguing characters and arch florid dialogue, novelist Cormac McCarthy (“No Country for Old Men,” “The Road”) delivers them in spades in this, his first produced screenplay. If you want a concise, coherent plot, you may be out of luck.
What McCarthy and director Ridley Scott do reveal is the unnamed title character (Michael Fassbender), a high-priced lawyer just engaged to the innocent Laura (Penélope Cruz). To raise money to maintain his lavish lifestyle, the counselor strikes a deal with flashy nightclub owner Reiner (Javier Bardem) to smuggle drugs from Juarez. When the drugs are hijacked, the counselor is caught holding the bag, as his money man (Brad Pitt) goes underground and Mexican cartel thugs come calling.
McCarthy gives his characters room to ruminate on life and death, and the fate that their choices have led them to, in scenes Scott fills with signs of wealth and menace. The male cast seems to enjoy chewing on McCarthy’s meaty words, while Cruz and Cameron Diaz (as Reiner’s scheming lover) are left trying to find some reality in the rote female roles.
Opens today at theaters everywhere; rated R for graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content and language; 117 minutes.