The Counselor by Cormac McCarthy is a good read and that is not just because I am a Cormac McCarthy junkie!
First off, understand this is not a book. This is a screenplay and in that format it lacks much of the background and filler that fleshes out a book. What makes this story tick in this format is dialogue. You will get it or your won’t. It is really that simple. Like the movies; The Road and A Country For Old Men before this one, it will be hit or miss. It definitely is not going to work for everyone. But for me, this violent, sexual tale of greed and betrayal hits on almost all cylinders.
COUNSELOR: I want her to have something that she would not be uncomfortable wearing. I don’t want to give her a diamond so big she will be afraid to wear it.
DEALER: (Nodding, just a trace of a smile)She is probably more courageous than you imagine.
The Counselor, an attorney, is working on a drug deal with an old friend. He is in love and looking for that one big score to set himself and his fiancé up for life. As with most of these kinds of plans they are doomed from the beginning. That is the tone from the outset. You know this is going to go wrong. Almost every character in the screenplay points that out to him but he goes on anyway. Putting himself and his love at risk for money.
Like almost all of Cormac McCarthy’s writing, at its soul, The Counselor is a morality tale. The results of a life well led and then changed by one wrong decision. A decision that The Counselor knew was the wrong thing to do all along but could not resist.
WESTRAY: You’re pretty quiet.
WESTRAY: Let me tell you something, Counselor. If your description of a friend is someone who will die for you then you don’t have any friends…
As the drugs and cash go missing there are repercussions for all involved. But how they go missing and who is behind it all is something none of them are prepared for. And none of them see coming. Until the end, with nearly everyone else dead The Counselor is left to ponder the decisions he has made and the cost of them.
COUNSELOR: WHY DO THEY DO THAT?
CAFE MAN: (Shrugging) To make a joke. To show that death does not care. That death has no meaning.
COUNSELOR: Que piensa? Usted. Do you believe that?
CAFE MAN: No. Of course not. All my family is dead. I am the one who has no meaning.
I wish, I admit, that McCarthy had not written this tale as a screenplay and had instead written it out as a book first. Had trusted his words to tell the tale and not relied on the acts to be brought to life on the screen. I think had that been the case, it would have been much better received. Instead it is one of his better stories that may go unnoticed in the literary world and that would be a shame.