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Crime, Passion, Absurdity: More Darkly Twisted Comedies


No Spoilers

In my first blog on Darkly Twisted Comedies, I listed some of my favorite comedies, acknowledging that the selected films are often too dark and twisted to be considered amusing by some audiences. That original post was so popular, and generated so much interaction on readers’ parts, that I’ve written a follow-up listing more films in that genre. To my surprise, it wasn’t difficult to find more brilliantly acted, well-written, sometimes award-winning films that are considered “dark comedy.” Sometimes the absurd premise in these films delivers laughs, sometimes the easily recognizable human scenarios are amusing, and sometimes the compassionate view of humanity against its occasionally blatant stupidity is what does the trick. Here’s my next list of darkly twisted comedies, presented in no particular order unless it’s from least to most “dark,” without any Spoilers, so you can enjoy them for yourselves.

The Last Supper

After an accident, a group of five idealistic, liberal graduate students (Cameron Diaz, Annabeth Gish, Courtney B Vance, Ron Eldard, Jonathan Penner) decide to make a difference in the world through action, not talk. Each week, they find someone to invite to Sunday night “dinner and discussion,” where the group attempts to change the guest’s social views.

Guests include Ron Perlman, Bill Paxton,

Jason Alexander, and Charles Durning, among others.

Things quickly go awry, spinning out of the students’ control, forcing each member to re-evaluate his own ethics and morality.

Staged like a play, where most of the action takes place in the confined quarters of the grad students’ dining room and kitchen, The Last Supper is an intriguing exploration of the ever popular “What would you do if…” scenario where you ponder your own hypothetical behavior given a chance to change the world.

The Last Supper is available to rent for $2.99 on Amazon, and is free if you subscribe to Starz or to DirecTV.


Death at a Funeral

On the day of Daniel’s (Matthew MacFadyen, below R) father’s funeral, everything is supposed to be sedate and dignified. Instead, from the moment the coffin arrives, everything goes topsy-turvy. Daniel desperately strives to maintain order and to stay in control, but everyone else seems to be going mad. From his brother Robert (Rupert Graves, L),

to his wheelchair-bound Uncle Alfie (the late Peter Vaughan),

from his father’s friend Peter (Peter Dinklage),

to his cousins (Daisy Donovan and Kris Marshal),

who accidentally drug the fiancé (Alan Tudyk, below, R),

they all try Daniel’s patience. Despite Daniel’s best attempts, chaos erupts, threatening to expose family rivalries and skeletons.

Witty and farcical, with nudity and a few instances of scatalogical humor, Death at a Funeral encapsulates some of the weirdest and most notorious moments possible at a dysfunctional family’s gathering. Death at a Funeral is available for rent for $3.99 (free if you’re a Prime Member) from Amazon.

The 2010 remake of Death at a Funeral, starring Zoë Saldana, Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, James Marsden, and Peter Dinklage, is available free to DirecTV subscribers, but it’s not the version of the film I saw, so I cannot yet recommend it.

The Lobster

In an unnamed place, in an unspecified future, humans — who are known mostly by their “defining characteristics,”  such as a limp, a lisp, or being short-sighted — are not permitted to be alone. If they are widowed or divorced, they must check into The Hotel, where they have 45 days to find another life partner. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as it seems to find someone to love in this dystopian world since partners are required to be physically alike as well as emotionally compatible. If a Guest cannot find a partner within the time limit, s/he is transformed permanently into an animal released into the woods. Newly divorced David (Colin Farrell) wants to be a lobster if he fails, and is accompanied by his brother, who is now a dog.

In order to prolong their stay at The Hotel, Guests may earn additional days by going on a Hunt and killing Loners: people who refuse to find a mate and who hide in the Woods, vowing to forever remain single, isolated, and hidden from society.

David doesn’t know which life is worse: that of the Guests or the Loners, but he knows he’s lonely and doesn’t want to turn into a dog.

Narrated in VoiceOver by the Short-Sighted Woman (Rachel Weiss), The Lobster  begins with a startling and absurd premise but manages to carry it successfully to its absurdly logical conclusion.

In this new twist on dystopian literature or films, the actors do a wonderful job behaving as if they have no emotions, sexual drives, or otherwise subversive feelings. The Lobster is available for rent for $4.99 (free if you’re a Prime Member) from Amazon and is free for DirecTV subscribers.


One of the Coen Brothers’ classic films, Fargo explores the world of crime when the criminals are inept, incompetent, and extremely dangerous. Car salesman Jerry Lundergaard (William H. Macy)

hires two bumblers (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife.

Jerry is über-confident that his wealthy father-in-law will pay the enormous ransom, which Jerry needs for an unspecified reason. It’s a lot of money, but despite his father-in-law’s devotion to his daughter, he isn’t about to let Jerry handle that much money. In any event, the kidnapping immediately goes wrong,

which gets a hugely pregnant local police-chief Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) involved. She’s desperately seeking criminals in an attempt to save the kidnapping victim’s life.

Buscemi shines as the violent, impulsive kidnapper. The Oscar-winning screenplay garnered an Academy Award for McDormand as the quirky but diligent law officer, and an Oscar nomination for Macy as the dull-witted and desperate Jerry. Fargo is available for rent for $3.99 from Amazon, and is free if you subscribe to Showtime or DirecTV.

Fight Club

When a dissatisfied, support-group-hopping, insomniac (Edward Norton), who’s the unnamed Narrator,

meets a charismatic, renegade soap-maker (Brad Pitt), the two form an unlikely bond. In their desperation to live a fully experienced life, they form an underground Fight Club, where the “first rule of Fight Club is that you do not talk about Fight Club.”

The fights bond the two men until Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) — another support-group Crasher — resurfaces in the Narrator’s life.

In fact, Marla creates at least as much havoc as the ever expanding club, which begins to spread its exponentially increasing violence outside the metaphorical ring.

Based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, this is one of the few films that surpasses its source material in quality, if only because the (book) Narrator’s lines are spread out around the film’s principals. Brilliant and dangerously quirky, Fight Club is worth watching multiple times to get all the important details. Fight Club is available for rent for $3.99 from Amazon or free if you subscribe to DirecTV.

American Beauty

One of the darkest comedies ever made, Oscar-winning American Beauty explores the rot and ugliness beneath the seemingly perfect exteriors of an upper middle-class family and of everyone who comes into contact with its seriously flawed members. Head of household Lester (Kevin Spacey, in an Oscar-winning performance) is about to lose his job to down-sizing,

and is despised by his wife Carolyn (Annette Bening, in her best role ever).

Both of them repulse their daughter Jane (Thora Birch),

especially after Lester gets a blatant crush on Jane’s friend Angela (Mena Suvari, on bed).

When the new neighbor, boy-next-door drug-dealer Ricky (Wes Bentley), falls for Jane and makes her feel special for the first time in her life, her life becomes intolerable.

To make things worse, Lolita-like nymphet Angela begins to fall for Jane’s sexually frustrated father Lester, and is openly hostile to Jane’s quirky boyfriend Ricky, whom Angela considers a “psycho.” Yes, everything falls apart.

Stunning performances by all actors combined with an Oscar-winning screenplay by Alan Ball take this dark comedy from its amusing beginnings to a much deeper exploration of beauty, happiness, and the meaning of life itself. American Beauty is available for rent for $3.99 (free if you’re a Prime Member) from Amazon, for rent for $3.99 for DirecTV  subscribers, or free if you’re a subscriber to SundanceTV.

Though some of the films contain violence or explicit language, I don’t find graphic or sexual violence humorous, so none contains that. All of the films should be considered for mature audiences, however.

And, as always, if you have any films you’d like to suggest for future lists, I’d love to hear from you (and to see the films).

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Crime, Passion, Ambition, Stupidity:
Darkly Twisted Comedies


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Crime, Passion, Ambition, Stupidity: Darkly Twisted Comedies


No Spoilers

Christian Slater & Patricia Arquette, True Romance ©

There are lots of different types of comedies in film these days, from slapstick, to teen-flicks, to culture-clash explorations. Most of those don’t appeal to me very much, and even if I see one of them, I rarely watch it more than once. I prefer the “comedies” that are dark and twisted. These dark comedies usually have very big name stars, terrific writing, and very unusual stories. They’re usually more sophisticated and intellectually complex. Sometimes they win big awards; sometimes they don’t.  But what they virtually always have in common are mistakes, loyalty, crime, passion, ambition, romance, and a healthy dose of stupidity on many of the characters’ parts. (Presented in no particular order: I love them all, and have seen each multiple times.)

Suicide Kings


Avery (Henry Thomas), Max (Sean Patrick Flanery) and two friends (Jay Mohr, Jeremy Sisto) — all spoiled, über-wealthy boys — concoct a desperate & convoluted plan to save Avery’s kidnapped sister. They kidnap former Mafia boss Carlo “Charlie” Bartolucci (Christopher Walken), planning to use the ransom they get for Charlie to pay the $2M ransom being demanded for Avery’s sister.

Christopher Walken, Suicide Kings ©

Though they think they’ve planned for every contingency, their plan bungles grotesquely, even before fellow pal Ira (Johnny Galecki) comes to his father’s vacation house for a “game of poker,” and discovers, instead, his childhood friends and the kidnapped mobster.

Suicide Kings ©

Toss in a healthy dose of Charlie’s “street-smart” psychological manipulation, and the boys soon begin to jump at their own shadows as they suspect that one or more of them was “an inside player” in the kidnapping of Avery’s sister.

Many of the scenes between Ira (Galecki) and Charlie (Walken) in Suicide Kings were ad-libbed, and the film has a surprise twist that will stun you. Available for rent ($3.99) from Amazon, YouTube, and GooglePlay.

Pulp Fiction


A montage of ultimately connected — though seemingly disparate — stories, Pulp Fiction was a critical and box-office success, due in part to the stunning performances of its mega-star cast. Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winfield (Samuel L. Jackson) are hit-men whose philosophical discussions involve even their victims.

John Travolta & Samuel L Jackson, Pulp Fiction ©

Their boss, Marcellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) and his wife, Mia (Uma Thurman) get tangled up with the hit-men, as does a struggling boxer Butch (Bruce Willis), mob-crime “cleaner” Winston “The Wolfe” (Harvey Keitel), drug-dealer Lance (Eric Stoltz) and his wife Jody (Rosanna Arquette).

Uma Thurman, Pulp Fiction ©

Now throw in a pair of supremely romantic but amateur armed robbers, “Pumpkin” (Tim Roth) and “Honey Bunny” (Amanda Plummer), at the beginning and the end of the film, and you’re in for a treat.

Director Quentin Tarantino’ s Pulp Fiction is an ingenious and glorious romp on the dark side. Available for rent ($3.99) from Amazon, YouTube, and iTunes.

Lars and the Real Girl


In one of the most bizarre premises for a film ever, the extremely shy & painfully introverted Lars (Ryan Gosling) finds it impossible to make friends, socialize, or even get himself a girlfriend. When he tells his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and hugely-pregnant sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer) that he is bringing home a girl he met on the Internet, they are overjoyed.

Paul Schneider, Emily Mortimer, Ryan Gosling, and “Bianca”, Lars and the Real Girl ©

Until they meet Bianca — a life-size plastic sex-doll. On the advice of the town doctor Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), however, his family and the rest of the community agree to go along with Lars’ delusion that Bianca is a real girl, rather than to oppose him, in an attempt to understand why Lars needs a plastic fiancée.

Patricia Clarkson and “Bianca”, Lars and the Real Girl ©

An exploration of an emotionally abandoned young man’s lonely life as well as of the love of his family and community that begins to envelop him, Lars and the Real Girl will bring tears to your eyes — and not just from laughter — especially in the ultimate scene between Lars and Bianca.

Available for rent ($3.99) from Amazon, YouTube, and iTunes.

True Romance


Another entry from Quentin Tarantino, True Romance has big-name stars, a quirky story, and bang-up dialogue. When comic-book nerd and Elvis fanatic Clarence (Christian Slater) meets the “love of his life” — a call-girl of three days — Alabama (Patricia Arquette), and attempts to save her from her pimp Drexl (Gary Oldman), a mistakenly grabbed suitcase leads to a wild plan for a “happily ever after life” for the two lovers.

Christian Slater & Patricia Arquette, True Romance ©

Unfortunately, the suitcase belongs to the mob, and they send very bad men to recover their property. From the brilliantly and hysterically savage (improv) “Sicilian” scene between Clarence’s dad (Dennis Hopper) and mafioso attorney Don Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken), to the violently “affectionate” encounter between Alabama and one of the hit-men (James Gandolfini), to the final Mexican stand-off (one of Tarantino’s signature set-pieces) in the luxury hotel suite, True Romance rocks everyone’s world as each tries to maintain loyalty in the face of treachery and violence.

Available for viewing via Yidio.

Scotland PA

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An extremely dark and comedic retelling of Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, this story is set in the early ’70s in rural Scotland, PA. Here, fast food “King” Duncan (James Rebhorn) — formerly of Doughnut restaurant fame — employs the McBeths, “Mac” (James LeGros) and Pat (Maura Tierney), who feel under-appreciated and resentful in their dead-end jobs at Duncan’s not-so-successful burger joint.

Maura Tierney, James LeGros, Scotland PA ©

When Duncan reveals his plan for an innovation that will revolutionize the restaurant world — a plan which three stoned “hippie” witches (Andy Dick, Amy Smart, and Timothy Levitch) have previously foretold in cryptic fashion to Mac — and when Duncan reveals as well his intention to leave the restaurant to his son Malcolm (Tom Guiry), the murder plot is hatched.

Christopher Walken, Scotland PA ©

Lieutenant McDuff (Christopher Walken) is on the case as early as Duncan’s funeral, and the McBeths must elude discovery while attaining success with their newly acquired restaurant.

A rare comedic take on one of the most famous tragedies every written, the dark violence and brilliant characterizations in Scotland PA are a tribute to and an innovation on the original source material. Available for viewing via Netflix and Yidio.

In Bruges

51l1m++CXvLAfter neophyte hit-man Ray (Colin Farrell) makes a dreadful mistake on his first job, he and partner Ken (Brendan Gleeson) are forced by their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes), to head to the medieval city of Bruges, Belgium to hide out until the situation gets straightened out.

Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, In Bruges ©

Ray hates the city and is a whiny “tourist,” but Ken finds it enchanting and fascinating. At least, until Ken discovers why he and Ray have been sent to Bruges in the first place, and what Harry now wants to happen. Both Gleeson and Farrell were nominated for awards for their brilliant performances — simultaneously comic and tragic — but Fiennes also shows his rare ability to be similarly comedic and threatening.

Ralph Fiennes, In Bruges ©

In his play No Exit, Sartre wrote that “Hell is other people,” but to bumbling hit-man Ray, Hell is being In Bruges.

Available for rent ($3.99) from Amazon (free with Starz 7-day trial), YouTube, and iTunes.

Very Bad Things


Before Kyle  (Jon Favreau) marries his beautiful but extremely emotionally needy fiancée (Cameron Diaz), leaving his single life behind forever, Kyle and four of his friends (Jeremy Piven, Christian Slater, Daniel Stern, and Leland Orser) head to Las Vegas for a supreme bachelor party.

Cameron Diaz and Jon Favreau, Very Bad Things ©

There, after drugs, alcohol, and philosophical discussions among long-time friends, things go terribly wrong. Innocent fun quickly deteriorates into accidental violence, and then into intentional, escalating crime to cover the initial accident. This film’s characters become ultimately so very “bad” that you find yourself feeling rather guilty for laughing out loud at their circumstances, which are certainly no laughing matter. Then, just when you think you’ve reached the end of your ability to laugh, Very Bad Things hits you with its very stunning and morally appropriate ending.

Available for rent ($3.99) from Amazon, YouTube, and iTunes.


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THE COUNSELOR: The Worst Movie Ever Made?



If you read the (few) reviews out there on Director Ridley Scott’s and screenwriter Cormac McCarthy’s The Counselor, or if you looked at its relatively low star-count (2-4 out of 10) on IMBD and Rotten Tomatoes, you might pass on this movie. That would be a mistake. This is an example of what lengths Hollywood will go to in order to win awards it doesn’t even know exist yet. The Counselor gets them all. And then some.

Biggest Waste of Big-Name Talent

You have to throw a lot of money around — or drugs, I don’t know — or blackmail the actors themselves to get the kind of talent that appears in this film. Yet here they are. All in one film. Wowza! What film lover or critic could ask for better talent than director Ridley Scott (Gladiator), author and first-time screen-writer Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men), actors Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz — with special guest appearances by Natalie Dormer, Rosie Perez, and Rubén Blades.

Brad Pitt as Westray "counseling" Michael Fassbender's The Counselor

Brad Pitt as Westray “counseling” Michael Fassbender’s The Counselor

The gorgeous Michael Fassbender and the lovely Penélope Cruz have to work really hard to spoil the opening erotic scene of the movie. They manage to make adult coo-ing and bill-ing sound like pre-tween virgins trying to do phone-sex. But their faces look good under the sheet doing it, and they certainly deserve credit for saying those sophmoric lines without ever once showing a bit of skin in this erotic scene.

You see, you need incredibly big talent to mess up an erotic scene in Hollywood.

Michael Fassbender as -- you guessed it -- the Counselor, and Penélope Cruz as the love of his life, Laura

Michael Fassbender as — you guessed it — the Counselor, and Penélope Cruz as the love of his life, Laura

The Counselor not only has all that big talent, it wastes it all in the most supremely large-scale fashion. Grand Prize in this Category.

Most Non-Sequitur

First of all, its screenplay was written by Cormac McCarthy, ferchrisssakes, and who knows how to muddle up dialogue better than Cormac? I mean, the guy’s won awards and stuff for writing things down that make no sense whatsoever. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that if he were given his first crack at a screenplay, as 20th Century Fox did with The Counselor, the competition wouldn’t stand a chance, as the If You’re Not In, You Need to Tell Me scene adequately proves.

If you’re not scratching your head and going, “Huh?” by the end of that scene, then just watch another one: Truth has No Temperature.

Who’s the winner now? Yeah.

Best Bad-Christopher-Walken Imitation

Those of you familiar with Walken and his stellar career probably already know that he likes to make little jokes in his films, to entertain himself, to keep from getting bored — who knows? who cares? The man’s a genius and can do whatever he likes. Thus, the wild hair in Sleepy Hollow, the super-big retro glasses in Scotland PA and the opening sequences of The King of New York, among others. And whenever Walken guest-hosts on Saturday Night Live, he loves the wild and crazy outfits.

Now, take Javier Bardem, who can barely seem to speak English in The Counselor, and insist that he do his best Walken imitation — including his unique speech patterns and facial expressions — and you got yourself an award all sewn up, as they say.

Javier Bardem (Renier) in his Best Bad Walken get-up

Javier Bardem (Renier) in his Best Bad Walken get-up

I don’t know how Javier managed to pull off the I Don’t Know scene, but I say give The Big Bad Javier the big bad prize.

And for his facial expressions and body language in the scene where Cameron Diaz’s character is “f***ing” his car, he deserves an additional award and a pay bonus.

(Note to the reviewers who commented on Cameron Diaz’s “unbelievable” contortions in this scene — and those contortions were quite extraordinary, to say the least: if you don’t see the face and the body of the big name star at the same time in the scene, then it’s a body-double.)

While we’re on Cameron, let’s proceed to the next award, which she deserves in addition to the one she shares with all the other actors for Non-Sequitur Dialogue. She already won the Alliance of Female Film Journalists’ Award for Actress Most in Need of a New Agent, for The Counselor, and, technically, this award should probably go to the make-up people, but I have a feeling Cameron may have added to their work herself — what with her dead-pan facial expression throughout — and I don’t want her to feel ignored.

Cameron Diaz as Malkina, the bad-ass girlfriend of drug-lord Reiner (Javier Bardem)

Cameron Diaz as Malkina, the bad-ass girlfriend of drug-lord Reiner (Javier Bardem)

Best No-Prosthetics Ugly

Actually, you can see the amazing work that the makeup artists and Cameron did to deserve this award for The Counselor better in a clip from the film than in a still, so I’ll give you a two-fer: Javier and Cameron, the Best Worst-Walken Award winner and the Best No-Prostethics-Ugly Award winnerdoing a supremely fine example combining the Non-Sequitur Dialogue Award as well as the Hit the Viewer in the Face with a Sledgehammer As Symbolism Award (detailed below)in the Does She Like to be Stroked? scene.

There are so many amazing awards this film deserves, I can’t even name them all.

• The Most Egregious Use of Obscenity Award, for using the word “Counselor” 2,584,653,094,921 times (give or take a few, I might have lost track).

• The Darkest Movie with No Redeeming Moral Value Award, which goes jointly to director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Cormac McCarthy, who, in the trailers, are mighty proud of telling everyone just how darkly dark this darkest of the dark-side movies is. In case you didn’t get it from the subject matter — an amateur dealing with drug cartels.

• The Silliest Premise Award, wherein Unnamed Counselor, for some never explained reason, wants to do a big drug deal with the Mexican Cartel, just once. Why, you might ask yourself, what could possibly go wrong with that plan?

• The Hit Viewers in the Face with a Sledgehammer disguised as Over-the-Top Symbolism Award. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, check out Cameron Diaz’s “tattoo” in the sexy scene with Penélope, Cameron’s dress in the scene when she “does” the Ferrari, and her two pet Cheetahs. Man, I know I would have missed all that if I hadn’t been slammed with it by the screenwriter and director. Nice work, guys. Appreciate that.

• The Sexiest Teaser That Goes Nowhere and Is Completely Unrelated To the Rest of the Film Award, with barely clad Cameron and Penélope discussing sex.

Cameron Diaz (Malkina) and Penélope Cruz (Laura), at their tittilating best

Cameron Diaz (Malkina) and Penélope Cruz (Laura), at their tittilating best

Oh, all right, I guess you deserve to see just how award-worthy the Rattling Your Cage scene is.

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the most incredible award of all for The Counselor. 

ReDefining the MPAA Rating System

Yes, you thought you knew what it meant when the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) gave a movie an R rating. Adult language, adult subject matter, violence, some sexual scenes. But The Counselor managed to add something new to the list of “reasons” the film earned the R rating (which you can see at the end of the Official Trailer, below):

Graphic Violence
Strong Sexual Content
and (drum roll, please)

Some Grisly Images

Some Grisly Images? 

Unfortunately, I can’t show you the scene itself, because it would be a dreadful Spoiler, and I wouldn’t do that to this award-winning film. But I can tell you that it happens, in all its gory glory, to Brad Pitt’s Westray, and it’s explained in detail to the Counselor himself earlier in the film in the Bolito scene. You know, just in case you miss The Big Gruesome Grisly when it actually happens to Brad’s character Westray.

This scene also won the film its The Explaining What a Rifle Is and How It Works Before Using It Award, in case I forgot to mention that one.

I just can’t say enough about this wonderful film, and I don’t understand why it gets such low ratings, why it gave me nightmares (hint: snuff film & what happens to Penélope Cruz’s character), and why Hollywood never mentions the other Awards it Won.

In any event, Brad’s Westray does get to say some of the best lines in the movie when he’s “counseling” the Counselor after his ostensibly first-and-only-what-could-possibly-go-wrong-summer-adventure with a Mexican drug cartel goes seriously and metaphorically south. Their business partners, says Brad’s Westray, suspect that the counselor is involved in the missing shipment because “They don’t believe in coincidences. They’ve heard of them. They’ve just never seen them.”

Lucky for us, we get to see Brad deliver those fine lines in the Official Trailer to The Counselor.

I watched this movie twice, albeit not in a row, but on subsequent nights, since I’d missed the first half-hour and thus the Counselor’s motivation for doing a drug deal with the Mexican Cartel in the first place. It would seem that he did have a motive, especially when the trailer clearly indicates that the Counselor has sufficient motivation for this risky, life-threatening endeavour.

“What if you have it all, but want more?”

Hmm… Must be more of that non-sequitur stuff, indicating that all these Awards are hereby richly deserved .

See, if you’ve already got it all, Counselor, you can’t get any more.

Worst movie ever made?

Not with all these Awards.


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