Cormac, Autosex and Cameron Diaz: Is Advisor Ridley Scott’s Masterpiece?

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“Overcooked and naff”. “A terrible disappointment.” “Strange, far and vaguely embarrassing.” No one seemed like Ridley Scott‘s The Counselor when it came out in 2013. Those critics were not wrong, but they were also not quite right. Kuckt, The Counselor ass glitterbomb, switchblade-in-your-lipstick camp. It’s a misunderstood festival of accents, headaches and Rosie Perez in a prison onesie that only gets more exciting every time you watch it. What some do, because most seem to give up in the middle in the first round.

Next week, Scott returns to high-flying territory House of Gucci, a true crime story with Lady Gaga as a glamorous Italian murderer. Early reviews were friendly, but some criticized the film for not going full on to the camp, or for following Gaga’s flamboyant lead when it came to his overall tone. It is worth asking: has the failure of The Counselor scare Scott out of the sordid and deranged? And is it his secret masterpiece?

The Counselor Starring Michael Fassbender – in the midst of a long and potentially ruinous run of off-beat choices – as a Texas attorney who is embarking on some light drug smuggling. Penelope Cruz is his convicted fiancĂ©, Brad Pitt’s cartel associate and Javier Bardem’s boss. Cameron Diaz – as a friend of Bardem – looks at the edge of the movie with a gold tooth in a collection of animal horses, and at some point has sex with a car windshield.

For Fassbender’s character, a simple payday is a long, winding road to hell. There are barrels of cocaine, electronic devices that disarticulate their targets, a henchwoman played by the late 90s television personality Donna Air. Nothing makes sense, archetypes reign supreme, and each character speaks in the same grim timbre, rattling the construction philosophy about the nature of sex and violence.

But good God, it’s potent. Beginner screenwriter Cormac McCarthy – who has not written any scripts since then, possibly by force – does not really know how to write a Hollywood movie. Scenes go much longer than they should typically, and there is an audaciousness to its depravity that contradicts modern filmmaking. Scott climbs to the challenge. His direction is dense and suffocating, as if trapped in a windowless room. Characters look as if they could cool down at any moment of thirst; Luxury properties are photographed with the same sterility as prison cells.

Together, Scott and McCarthy emerge as suspects: two oddballs who convinced a major American film studio to bankroll their wacky experiment. Just a handful of US studio movies since The Counselor – think that Darren Aronofsky is debauched Mother! or James Wan’s pine case Malignant – comes everywhere close to his free madness.

Similarly, since then no one has delivered a performance as exciting as Diaz. As a car fetishist Malkina, she cuts every line and tail around in an endless parade of leopard-print mini-dresses and kaftans, like a raging psychopath in a boohoo ad. Diaz twists her face in expressions of sadistic delight or vulgar eel, Diaz is about as hyperbolically evil as Mr. Burns and The Simpsons. In addition, her performance has doubled, reporting at the time that Diaz gave Malkina a thick Bajan accent in the beginning, not unlike Rihanna. After being bombarded with test audiences, Diaz apparently had to re-record everything. Not to be overly dramatic or otherwise, but it’s frankly a hate crime that rude footage with Malkina’s original voice collects dust on a 20th Century Studios shelf somewhere.

I’m afraid of that – echo Scott’s modern fear when it comes to camp – The Counselor also scared Diaz into acting. The actor did not press for the film and then retired 18 months after its release, and left The Counselor the last gasp of Diaz’s often underestimated fearlessness. Does Diaz’s performance work? In a conventional sense not at all. But in a film of massive vibrations and dubious taste, she holds out to try to fit his chaos.

I miss Diaz, and I miss this Ridley Scott. Forget it Blade Runner; I’m staying with the movie in which Brad Pitt’s head flies outside Liverpool Street Station.

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‘House of Gucci’ will be released on Friday, November 26, while ‘The Counselor’ may now be streamed on Disney +