Yes, for a film that none of us wholeheartedly loved (and some of us vehemently disliked), we remain kind of fascinated with the Ridley Scott’s toxic morality cesspool that is “The Counselor.” Or rather we should call it Cormac McCarthy’s “The Counselor” because he is probably the true author here, in the best sense of the word. Scott—who mostly shoots the script as is to the letter—is more like the vessel and filmmaker who processes it to the screen, rather than the auteur who birthed it. Such is the nature of faithfully adapting the works of Mr. Bleakness and Lack Of Humanity himself.
In all seriousness though, “The Counselor” is a fascinating work because of the many ways that it fails (here’s another piece we did on 5 wtf moments from the movie itself). The screenplay by McCarthy reads like another one of his great books, or perhaps an extended short story given that it’s only 116 pages long. But one of the fundamental issues with the movie is just how uncinematic it is, at least in the traditional sense, and that’s the key problem of the transition to the big screen. In short, what works on the page doesn’t always work onscreen (and perhaps someone who read the script might have recognized this). McCarthy’s story is much like one of his novels, dark, twisted, hopeless and bleak as all get out. It’s a cruel tale of fate with the gods dispassionately looking down from above at the poor, dumb simpletons with the hubris to believe that they can outrun destiny and escape the immorality of their actions. In terms of trying to dissect why it doesn’t work on film, as some have tried to, it has to be said that there is a bit of an ineffable quality to it (here’s our full review, btw).
Part of the problem is, aside from many philosophical digressions, that each monologue tends to say basically the same thing about greed and many of them act as a warning that the Counselor can’t heed over and over again. Then there’s the way people talk. There’s the philosophical cowboy (Pitt), the somewhat less philosophical vampire (Diaz), and the philosophical douchebag (Reiner). Some can argue that “The Counselor” is life’s equivalent of a septic tank spewing shit and that’s really all there is to it. Plot-wise there are circumstance in motion that The Counselor—the guy who erroneously believes he is the smartest guy in the room at all times—simply cannot undo; it’s like a man who’s trying to prevent the mudslide he’s causing with a spoon. But, we digress…
Despite some rumors to the contrary (or things we heard anyhow), there’s not a lot cut out of “The Counselor,” meaning there’s very few scenes missing in their entirety. However, many scenes are pretty ruthlessly cut down and others trimmed wherever possible. So below, we picked five of the best deleted scenes (i.e. ones didn’t make it to the final cut of the movie), the five most interesting scenes in their full extended form and 10 of the best quotes overall. Btw, if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read this piece. It won’t make a lick of sense to you (and there will be massive spoilers).
The 5 Most Notable Deleted Scenes From “The Counselor”
1. Reiner’s “I Vant To Eat Your Pooosy” story
Javier Bardem’s Reiner character is a raconteur. We understand that from his now-infamous, burned-into-your-mind hilarious catfish monologue. (Which we discussed here and in this feature about weird and disturbing sex scenes), but in the movie we don’t really experience the full extent to which he tells stories. Some of them that have a point—the catfish scene is a long winded way of telling the Counselor that Malkina is unpredictable and dangerous—and some that don’t (hence the reason they were cut). Asie from that one, Reiner tells the Counselor one more long winded and hilarious story. This one involves a mutual friend named Peterson whose mother is from Brazil, thus he speaks Portuguese. Peterson’s Brazilian cousin comes to town, doesn’t speak a lick of English, but asks Reiner and a group of fellas at a nightclub to tell him how to say, “may I have this dance?”
Sensing a moment, the gang instead fucks with the Brazilian and tells him to say, “I vant to ate you poossy” instead. The cousin practices it over and over again until he’s got it down and then goes onto the dancefloor to find his mark. He leans in, gives his rehearsed speech and of course takes the woman aback. The group of guys bust into hysterics and the woman, noticing their antics, she eyes them, grab Peterson’s cousin and then “takes him out to this Mercedes van in the parking lot and proceeds to fuck his brains out.” She then parades him back inside and she “gives him this big sexy kiss and she cuts her eyes over at us to make sure we’re watching and she sends him back to the table.” When the cousin finally calms down enough to tell the story and its translated, it’s revealed he gets the works, a blowjob, etc.
The punchline is that Peterson himself then says, “fuck it” and tries to deliver the same line to other girls to see how far he gets. Peterson, who approaches someone he doesn’t realize is a married woman doesn’t get far and gets his head punched in. He flies under a table, lifeless (everyone actually thinks he’s dead for a while) and the husband and wife, much to everyone’s surprise, don’t even bother leaving the bar. It’s another hilarious, long (even longer than the catfish) monologue, and while it’s funny as hell, one can understand why it was cut from the movie.
2. The Mysterious Biker And The Dog Food Scene.
The man driving the Kawasaki motorcycle (Richard Cabral) in the movie is who exactly? Who does he work for and what’s his deal exactly? That’s not really the point of “The Counselor” and if you’re stuck on plot holes like that one, you’re going to dislike the movie even more. And yes, even the script doesn’t shed much extra light on him. We do know from the movie that the Kawasaki biker (or Young Man as he’s known in the script) is the son of Ruth (Rosie Perez), the prison inmate that The Counselor represents and is somehow connected to the drug deal that goes down. In the movie, he picks up a package that allows him to drive the truck that will eventually take a cargo of drugs to Chicago. But “The Counselor” is, if nothing else, full of betrayers upon betrayers so before he can do anything with the gizmo that gets the truck in gear, he is beheaded. The script tries to give him a little bit of texture. He goes to the store to buy dog food and the lady behind the counter asks him, somewhat stupidly, if he has a dog. The long and short of their exchange is that the Young Man tells her he does not have a dog and instead he eats dog food as part of his daily diet. In fact, he eats nothing else because it helped him lose almost 30 pounds. He also mentions that he wound up in the hospital, to which the woman asks if it was because of the dog food.
No, he replies, “Oh no maam. It wasn’t anything like that. I was sitting in the street licking my balls and a car hit me. You take care now, you hear?” In other words, the Young Man who is later revealed to own a pit bull is a sarcastic dick. Again, fun texture, but totally unnecessary for a character that is otherwise just a (fairly opaque) plot tool.
3. The Cheetahs Go Free, But Where Do They Go?
Short little one. Yes, as we’ve described in this piece, the Cheetah motifs are a bit overstated and heavy-handed to say the least, but they are near and dear to Malkina’s heart. In fact, in the one moment in the screenplay that evinces that she’s not totally inhuman, she almost weeps in search of them. Of course Reiner gets killed earlier on and the Cheetahs that were in the back of his SUV run free (also missing from the movie is the Cheetah’s trying to lovingly nudge Reiner’s dead body with their noses). Cut from the film, but in the script, Malkina uses a tracking system in their collar to find them. Before that, there is one brief tangent. The Cheetahs are seen roaming around whatever West Texas town they’re in.
At one point they walk into the backyard of some random suburban folk. The cheetahs come by a pool, look at two shocked boys inside, who silently look to their dad for help. The cheetahs slink away but the man just “closes his eyes and raises one hand palm-out”, though it’s unclear what that’s supposed to indicate exactly (it possible it means, he’s about to get attacked and this is his final defense move, but it’s super vague). Using a GPS and a tracking monitor for the transponder, Malkina tracks down The the female Cheetah named Silvia. She’s described as “almost crying” when she blurts out, “It’s Silvia! Hi, Baby. Hi Baby!” Later on she describes their fates (more below).
4. The Counselor Goes Back To Talk To Ruth (Rosie Perez) After Things Go To Hell.
You can understand why this scene was cut. In the movie Westray tells The Counselor that a righteous fury is going to come on his ass via Ruth, who will just assume that The Counselor had her son, the Kawasaki Biker, beheaded. It’s not true of course, but as Westray tells The Counselor, it doesn’t matter. Someone’s going to have to pay. So The Counselor then has to get the fuck out of dodge asap and wouldn’t risk going anywhere other than to an airport or a car (to Mexico where he eventually goes). But in the screenplay, as The Counselor tidies up his affairs, he goes back to the women’s penitentiary to talk to Ruth once last time. Considering Ruth is convinced that the Counselor, who was supposed to get her son out of jail, had her son killed, the conversation understandably doesn’t go well (although he was never in jail in the first place, perhaps this was Ruth’s lie from the beginning or she was lied to). “Enough ain’t in your dictionary, is it? Well, fuck it. You shouldn’t be even talking to me. You know that? Because I’ll rat your sorry ass out in a New York second,” she hisses. The Counselor says he won’t be representing her any longer, she essentially says, “no shit” and then curses him.
RUTH: Well Counselor you’ll be gone but not forgotten. Because I got
plans for you.
COUNSELOR: Yeah? Well, you better hurry, whatever they are.
RUTH: Why? You goin to make a run for it? That’s good. Because I want
you out there where my people can get to you.
The Counselor attempts to say he is sorry for her loss, but Ruth’s not having it. “It ain’t worth shit…. You don’t know what sorry is. But you’re fixin to find out.”
5. The Cheeky Self-Referential Line
This is so not Cormac McCarthy, but there’s one part in the script where Reiner thinks he’s quoting Arthur Miller.
COUNSELOR: Yeah. Well, I suspect you’re right about one thing.
REINER: What’s that?
COUNSELOR: That you never see it coming.
REINER: That’s been my experience. What’s the Miller quote? The smallest
crumb can devour us?
And while is is quoting Miller, he’s also quoting himself. That line,, “Yet the smallest crumb can devour us” is actually appropriated in another one of McCarthy’s own text. It’s a line from “Blood Meridian.” Did the guy turn into Kevin Smith all of a sudden? Woulda never guessed he had this sense of humor in him.
6 Notable Extended Sequences:
1. The Under-The-Sheets Opening Sex Scene
The opening sex scene of “The Counselor” is a divisive one. Some find it sensual, some (many of us honestly) find it a little flat and nowhere as sexy as it thinks it is. Part of the problem may be that it’s the PG-13 version that hit theaters and the one in the script is the much more R-Rated filthy one. Also missing is this bon mot, after the counselor asks Laura to talk dirty to him. The opening statement could arguably be the tag line of the movie. “Words are everything to a man. Or to some of us, anyway. I suppose there’s still a contingency out there that only gets turned on by enormous asses and tits the size of crenshaw melons. Maybe even gaudily striped buttocks. Red and blue. Who knows?” The best retort ever. Laura, “I don’t want to paint my buttocks.” Ha.
Then there’s this wonderful line that’s also been cut. “You have the most luscious pussy in all of Christendom. Did you know that?” The Counselor says to Laura. Again, what’s on screen is kind of the neutered version and it’s sort of why all their “dirty talk” feels so tame and half-hearted. Was Fox worried about an NC-17 rating?
2. The Counselor & Reiner Talk Women.
In the Counselor and Reiner’s first meeting, they talk about women. Reiner says, “I always liked smart women. But it’s been an expensive hobby” (which is one of the best lines in the screenplay). They also discuss one of Reiner’s ex’s who left him because she was “getting more pussy than I was.” The conversation quickly fast forwards to the deal at hand, but in the script there’s more. Reiner who says she used to “go around with no bra. These full nipples in her blouse” admits that she actually did leave him for another woman and he wasn’t just fucking around. “She finally left me for a negress.” He then describes how this African American woman was dating a hockey player for the Edmonton Oilers and he was heartsick. “We met once for drinks at this club in Dallas to discuss our mutual plight,” Reiner adds. “He was taking it rather poorly, I have to say.”
3. Westray & The Counselor Meet For The First Time In The Bar
As we’ve suggested, earlier, Ridley Scott shoots McCarthy’s script to the letter. However, what he does do to the script to trim it down (otherwise it would have been 3.5 hours frankly, especially at the speed these people deliver their monologues) and give it nips and tucks wherever he can to keep the story going in forward motion; anything that’s non-essential from a conversation is gone. There’s a funny exchange before they get down to business that shows off the deadpan nature of Westray and more importantly, McCarthy.
COUNSELOR: Is this a place where you hang?
WESTRAY: Never been here in my life.
COUNSELOR: So how did you pick it?
WESTRAY: I opened the yellow pages to Bar.
Most of the conversation is basically the same, give or take a few inessentials asides, but one big chunk of conversation excised from this scene is further conversations about snuff films and the evils of the cartels. Of course this topic comes up later, in the final Westray/Counselor meeting at the hotel where Westray explains to the attorney just how truly fucked he is. But this earlier conversation foreshadows what Westray is trying to warn the Counselor of all along: these people are inhuman and so insanely rich they have assassins on the payroll to kill people for their amusement. Because they can.
COUNSELOR: You think the druglords hire kidnappers to keep them supplied with young girls.
WESTRAY: No. I think they have kidnappers on full retainer.
The scene in the movie ends with Westray’s joke, why Jesus Christ wasn’t born in Mexico (because they couldn’t find three wise men or a virgin). But in the screenplay it ends with one more further admonition from Pitt’s character.
WESTRAY: Here’s something else for you to think about. The beheadings and the mutilations? That’s just business. You have to keep up appearances. It’s not like there’s some smoldering rage at the bottom of it. Not that their love of bloodshed is insincere. But let’s see if we can guess who it is that they really want to kill.
COUNSELOR: I don’t know. Who?
WESTRAY: You, Counselor. You.
The snuff movie conversation near the end of their last conversation, before Westray finally bids The Counselor a fond farewell, is also much more brutally descriptive in the screenplay. But we’ll have to leave some things to the imagination.
4. Malkina & The Priest Get Personal
Yes, the Malkina and the Priest (Edgar Ramirez) scene in “The Counselor” is mostly intact. And it of course leaves a lot of people scratching their heads to why it’s included in the movie at all, but it’s got a lot to do with McCarthy’s twisted black humor. Not only is there no god or no faith that’s going to save anyone, but the she-devil herself drops by the apostles that worship just for a laugh. She essentially gets a kick out of teasing god, or at least his devout followers (which only underscores the fact that Malkina is the smartest person in this story). One exchange goes a little bit longer and reveals that Malkina is supposed to be Argentinian (apparently there’s a test cut of the movie out there with Diaz trying on an Argentinian cut, but it tested poorly and was nixed). Malkina also tries to mock and unnerve the priest further by asking if he ever had sex with girls (and boys) before he became a priest. Then later on, she toys with him further saying she had an incestuous relationship with her sister.
MALKINA: But you don’t know, Suppose that I told you that I had sex with my sister. Would you believe that?
PRIEST: You really have to go now.
MALKINA: Because I did. We did it every night. As soon as the lights were out we were at it. We’d be falling asleep at our desks the next day at school. They didn’t know what was wrong with us. But that’s not the worst thing. Do you want to hear the worst thing? You might say that it’s not really about sex but it is about sex. It’s always about sex. Wait. Where are you going?
Of course this is when the horrified and angered priest pushes back the curtain and exits the confessional and the scene ends with her calling after him.
5. The extended Malkina Ending
After Malkina has Westray killed with the bolito (the beginnings of that scene can be seen here) she goes to talk to the Banker (called Escort in the script) played by Goran Visnjic, plots her exit strategy and tells him how she’s leaving London with her millions for China even though she can’t speak the language (again, in the script Malkina is Argentinian). But in the script, before she meets the Escort, she meets Lee, a 25 year old Chinese American. In a scene that’s almost four pages long, Malkina talks to Lee about what amounts to a lot of mumbo jumbo about encryption; ostensibly how to jack Westray’s money untraced. Frankly, it’s a pretty boring scene, would have given the audience absolutely nothing and its easy to see why it was nixed (we’d go as far to presume it was never shot).
6. The Diamond Jeweller’s Monologue
In the opening of the film, The Counselor goes to buy Laura a diamond ring in Amsterdam and and he gets in a long, philosophical conversation about diamonds which is actually a conversation about the value and its meaning (which of course, is foreshadowing because by the end of the movie, human life has zero value and life for the Counselor has lost all meaning). The diamond dealer is played by Swiss actor Bruno Ganz, known for playing Hitler in “Downfall” and starring in Wim Wenders‘ classic piece of ‘80s foreign cinema, “Wings of Desire.”
The conversation’s philosophical digression begins with the Jewish diaspora. “Every country that has driven out the Jews has suffered the same fate,” the jeweller says. How’s that the Counselor asks? The dealer doesn’t want to get into the conversation, but then is coaxed by the persuasive lawyer. It’s a monologue about the absences of culture via the absence of heroes, God and death. It’s best to leave this one intact and you can parse it yourself.
There is no culture save the Semitic culture. There. The last known culture before that was the Greek and there will be no culture after. Nothing. The heart of any culture is to be found in the nature of the hero. Who is that man who is revered? In the western world it is the man of God. From Moses to Christ. The prophet. The penitent. Such a figure is unknown to the Greeks. Unheard-of. Unimaginable. Because you can only have a man of God, not a man of gods. And this God is the God of the Jewish people. There is no other god. We see the figure of him—what is the word? Purloined. Purloined in the West. How do you steal a God? He is immovable. The Jew beholds his tormentor dressed in the vestments of his own ancient culture. Everything bears a strange familiarity. But the fit is always poor and the hands are always bloody. That coat. Didn’t that belong to Uncle Chaim? What about the shoes?
Enough. I see you look. No more philosophy. The stones themselves have their own view of things. Perhaps they are not so silent as you think. They were piped up out of the earth in a time before any witness was, but they are here. Now. Who shall be their witness? We.
Other notable scenes? Not that many that we can recall and as we said, some that are just longer on the page, including the one with the Toby Kebbell cameo, but the important meat of that scene—to convey that the Counselor is a sore loser—is intact on the screen. There is a brief scene where Laura calls Malkina on the phone after they’ve first met, but it basically amounts to another warning about “being careful what you wish for,” and again, people are warned over and over again in this movie so it’s easy to see why this was omitted.
10 Best Quotes (Some Of These Also Not In The Script)
To be fair several of the quotes we’ve mentioned already could go on this list, but here’s 10 more regardless.
1. “Greed is greatly overrated. But fear isn’t.”—Reiner to The Counselor after the shit has hit the fan.
2. “Still, my guess is that in most cases if you still had the woman you’re weeping over you’d be weeping harder,” —Reiner, as part of the “talking about women” conversation with the Counselor.
3. When asked by the Escort/Banker (Goran Visnjic) how Malkina feels about leaving the Cheetah behind after deciding she will move to China with her money. “You don’t own a cheetah. Silva died. She had a congenital heart condition. Which we knew. Raoul is alive and well in Arizona. He rules over a domain of a thousand hectares and he has a special rock where he can take the sum and watch for quarry. That’s all. Dogs bring people together. Cats don’t. Still, I miss him.”
4. “But here’s what is true. If whole nations are capable of love and hate and greed and envy—which they are—then it’s just more than possible that murder itself can become a collective enterprise. Murder as a national pastime.” —Westray to the Counselor taken from their original conversation.
5. “I think there’s probably only one thing reserved exclusively to the individual. Forgiveness. People as a group can love or hate or admire or malign. But there’s no such thing as collective forgiveness.”—more dark wisdom from Westray to The Counselor.
6. “It was like one of those catfish things. One of those bottom feeders you see going up the side of the aquarium. Sucking its way up the glass. It was just…Hallucinatory. You see a thing like that, it changes you.” —Reiner explains the thing that cannot be unseen.
7. “How about McDonald’s? We can start getting used to our new life style.”—Another line cut from the movie. Westray suggesting where they should meet after he learns that the drug shipment is missing and they are now both fucked.
8. “Convince [them] that this is just some sort of odd coincidence. Because they don’t really believe in coincidences. They’ve heard of them, they’ve just never seen one.” — He doesn’t quite get it, but Westray’s about to make it clear that the Counselor is screwed.
9. “The point, Counselor, is that you may think there are things that these people would simply be incapable of. There are not.”—Westray gives off simple advice to The Counselor about the drug lords.
10. “There is no rule of exchange here, you see. Grief transcends every value. A man would give whole nations to lift it from his heart. And yet with it you can buy nothing.”—The Jefe (Rubén Blades) gives his long eloquent monologue to the Counselor about acceptance; there’s no moves left to play here.
11. Bonus quote.
COUNSELOR: “Did you read this fucking thing?” [meaning the newspaper article about the beheaded biker]
WESTRAY: I did read it.
COUNSELOR: Who writes this shit?
WESTRAY: They’re called journalists. You want to avoid them.
“The Counselor” is in theaters now. – Kevin Jagernauth, Rodrigo Perez, Edward Davis