“Everybody Talks. Everybody Talks. Everybody Talks.”
– Neon Trees, ‘Everybody Talks’
After White People Planet, I was kinda unsure about Ridley Scott. I liked it, don’t get me wrong, since I’ll love anything in the Alien universe, and that especially includes Alien: Resurrection in a genuine, unironic way. But Ridley Scott has definitely been on an increasingly steep slope in terms of his quality. Desert Spies, Gladiator Hood, Scarface 2: The Quickening and A Fucking Movie About a House Renovation?! have all indicated a master who has individual elements of greatness in different films, but has yet to cohesively assemble them as he did in his prime. White People Planet should have been a cakewalk for the auteur, and yet, the work of Damon Lindelof (not Spaihts, whose original script is so much better) didn’t jive with Ridley’s aversion to explore the philosophical ideas that were hinted at. If only he would have made an entire movie of David’s Bicyclesketball.
Bad Lawyer definitely had the workings to change that entire perspective. First of all, it was written by Cormac Motherfucking McCarthy, aka Sad Mamet. Second of all, THAT CAST. Lastly, it seemed to be a crime movie that’s not about crime, much like Soderbergh’s The Limey or Stephen Frears’ The Hit, and that shit is the cat’s pajam-jam’s.
And in a way, it did. Any sense that Scott lost his balls, and hence why he didn’t touch too much on the philosophical insanity within White People Planet, was gone. Scott hit Bad Lawyer without a fuck in the world, holding his wrinkly, sticky British dick for the world to see, and as such, provides one of the most challenging and unique films I’ve seen in quite a long time. Whether or not the movie is “good” is a question I’ll address soon enough, but for now, let’s say the film is endlessly fascinating.
There’s a refusal to compromise in Bad Lawyer, hitting the audience with esoteric dialogue and mind-rattling character development as hard as Tony Scott hit the Los Angeles Harbor. By taking such a risk, Scott locked himself in his own fucking trap, as the actors who can’t handle such bizarre and layered dialogue are left confused, unmotivated, and egregiously unqualified for the job. But when that shit works, goddamn is it marvelous, in such a hypnotic, surreal sense. Ridley Scott literally made Poetry: The Movie, and like poetry, that shit is up to motherfucking interpretation.
Let’s put it this way: Bad Lawyer shouldn’t be a movie. It simply shouldn’t. In a post-Tarantino, post-9/11 America, where movie dialogue in crime films tricks people into thinking it’s clever, when really, it’s just catchy, Cormac McCarthy writes an entire fucking movie where everyone is talking about everything except what’s pertinent to the conversation. McCarthy makes Bad Lawyer an intentionally difficult to understand story about the mechanisms of the human psyche when entering a world of inescapable consequence. Crime is presented here at it’s most distressing and revolting, but in a necessary way, as the extremity of crime is the only way to prove to adversaries, even those merely of circumstances, that they are NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH.
To McCarthy, the drug trade is like a get-rich-quick scheme — only the fallout isn’t a class action lawsuit, it’s bodily violation and straight up murder. And for those in it, severe and swift repercussion is a guaranteed exit from the business, and whether you see it coming or not doesn’t fucking matter. Whether you spend your time living lavishly, playing it safe or readying yourself for the worst, the nail in the coffin is already sealed, and in a way, so is destiny as a whole. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say Bad Lawyer is more about mortality and fear than it is about the drug trade at all.
Bad Lawyer is about the drug trade, simply. Michael Fistbumper decides that he doesn’t wanna be just a sexy lawyer anymore, but he also wants to be Hugecock McGillicutty of the cocaine world too. All over a fucking wedding ring he buys from Hitler. What an idiot.
Also there is Javier Fieri as the big time drug connection guy, Aldo Raine as the middleman, Bigtits Badaccent as Fistbumper’s wife and Literally The Worst Actress on The Face of The Planet and Also Looks Like A Shaved Cat Stretched Over A Human’s Body as the villain. You know who else is in this movie? Hank Schrader! The Pest! Edgar Ramirez! Johnny Quid! Rosie Perez! Did I mention Hitler? Hitler too. But they’re all literally in one scene, many of which are completely worthy of excision, because they’re not only irrelevant to the story but also the undertones set up by McCarthy.
Of course, things go bad. At this point, I don’t think I’ll ever get the “drug deal that works out awesome for everyone” movie. It seems most of them get so close and then just completely fuck that up in the third act, when people die and stuff. This one is the same but before they’re killed with terrible instruments of death, they’re first lacerated with WORDPLAY.
Okay, real quick. Scott does one of the strongest directing jobs of his career. As a guy who usually does most of his actor directing through casting and natural charisma, Scott does a phenomenal job of making the dialogue mostly real-feeling, even if real people don’t talk that fucking way. His visual style is incredibly restrained, almost like via McCarthy, the dialogue at hand serves as an audio version of the visuals that Scott normally wrangles like the coast guard wrangled his brothers’ bloated, waterlogged corpse.
Now onto the obvious: the acting is amazing. Fistbumper nails it, restrained, completely empathetic, and believable — especially as he spirals further and further into no-reason-to-live territory. Fieri is great, having a ball in a role that’s clearly much more involved and complicated than the image would give credence to. Aldo Raine uses his experience of using “cool dialogue” to make his expository metaphors cool. Penelope Cruz is good too, but quite underused.
Now, onto Cameron Diaz. You ever go out to karaoke and you’re with that one friend who can sing Sublime sorta good and they’re like, “I WANT TO TRY SOMETHING NEW!” and attempts “Somebody to Love” by Queen when you KNOW they can’t hit those highs? AND THEN YOU HAVE TO WATCH A TRAINWRECK AND APOLOGIZE TO PEOPLE BECAUSE YOUR EX-WIFE DRANK TOO MUCH AND IS TRYING TO SING QUEEN? That’s Cameron Diaz in this movie. She’s so bad she’ll make you hate Cheetahs, even after years of cheese snack indoctrination would make you intuitively love them. Someone should put her down, like a mangy dog who lost a leg on the subway tracks. Turn her into hobo food, where she’ll be useful and talented.
Now, as to whether or not The Counselor is good is a question beyond subjective interpretation. It’s essentially that Ridley Scott made 75% one of his strongest and most entrancing films to date, and 25% one of the worst hunks of shitgarbage I’ve ever seen. It’s like if someone made an art film from 75% of Apocalypse Now! and 25% of Jack! Holy shit. While writing that, I just realized how apt that is. 75% of a moral introspective look at a world beyond our understanding and rules, and then 25% of a poorly acted, extraneously filled retard sex-tape. So, is Bad Lawyer good? It’s good enough, but it’s not a movie for people who like movies. It’s not “awesome”, it’s not “sexy”. and it’s not “happy.” It’s a movie for people who read William S. Burroughs and then watch rape fantasy porn, which is my highest recommendation.