There are many signs that “The Counselor” is a ridiculous movie: the pseudointellectual philosophy spouted by various characters, including the leader of a Mexican drug cartel; Javier Bardem's fright-wig hair; Cameron Diaz's evil eyeliner, one of the primary identifying factors of her bad-girl character. But my favorites are the cheetahs.
Diaz plays a predatory blonde named Malkina who has two cheetahs for pets. She decks them out in fancy collars and loves to watch them chase down and shred jackrabbits in the high desert of El Paso. Her admiring if somewhat clownish lover (Bardem) makes drinks and looks on in bemusement. If the eyeliner didn't clue you in to her motivations, the cheetahs will.
“The Counselor” comes with expectations: It's directed by Ridley Scott with an impressive cast, which includes Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz and Brad Pitt. Novelist Cormac McCarthy wrote the screenplay.
What you don't expect is camp. “The Counselor” is more “Wild Things” than “No Country for Old Men,” with which it shares a border-town setting. But at least “Wild Things” knew what it was. “The Counselor” treats its material seriously and seems to have no idea it's a joke that can't even muster up a bit of smarty-pants Tarantino cleverness or energy.
The film follows the decision of an El Paso criminal defense attorney (Fassbender) to venture into the high-stakes world of drug trafficking. In a bit of coy artiness, we never learn his name, just as we never learn the names of other players in the great drug-trafficking machine (the Buyer, the Jefe).