Has “Breaking Bad” influenced the world of movies as much as it has television? No doubt the series had some influence on Cormac McCarthy writing an original screenplay about a professional who happens to get in too deep to the drug trade. It’s already too much of a temptation placing lawyers on the worst side of ethics, but you have to admit having one partaking in drug trafficking nearly outdoes the concept of a chemistry teacher doing the same. It makes you wonder how far the concept can go of an anti-protagonist delving into the netherworld of drugs.
The reasoning behind “The Counselor” is somewhat identical to “Breaking Bad”: The drug trade is a convenient method to gain quick cash for his own status and benefit. However, the unnamed Counselor does it to help pay for a wedding rather than helping his family. He even has a partner equivalent to “Breaking Bad’s” Jesse: Javier Bardem as a man named Reiner.
Other than that, there seems to be a slight Kafkaesque influence based on The Counselor being nameless and the equivalent guilt of Josef K in “The Trial.” Going this route provide a more intense nightmare world where we don’t know the real background of the lead and what might really motivate him to become so dry of ethical sense. It’s this backstory mystery that takes the “Breaking Bad” path into even darker territory if such a thing is even possible.
Is this the beginning of more films about professionals brazenly getting into the drug trade? For some who’ve been through drug addiction, that might be disconcerting when “Breaking Bad” at least showed the repercussions and didn’t glamorize a thing. For movies, things have to be glamorized for marketability purposes. In that regard, “The Counselor” might not get such scrutiny had “Breaking Bad” not existed as a comparison.
No matter if “The Counselor” seems slightly derivative now, the ethics-plagued lawyer is still the perfect portrait of a troubled character. It’s ironic that with the anti-protagonist becoming such a hot property in films and TV, the gradual devolution of the cinematic lawyer falls right onto the same path. Yes, we’ve seen the trajectory of the lawyer in the movies go from morally upright Atticus Finch to the complex moral dilemmas of Mitch McDeere in “The Firm.”
Now we face seeing movie lawyers being much more brazen and crooked than we’ve ever seen before or in real life. Writers have always shown fictional lawyers fighting their way through an ethical problem that meant doing as close to the right thing as possible. Soon, everyone can run with the idea that every lawyer is possibly scum behind the scenes when not working as an eye for justice.
Does that mean the lawyer who lives for doing right is gone from the movies? The anti-protagonist in movies and TV is probably just a phase as we explore the dark side of human behavior and what motives people to do wrong. Regardless, you can only do that for a while before it becomes depressingly repetitive.
Someday we’ll get another Atticus Finch in the movies. He might ultimately be a drug addict himself who finds his way through the dark tunnel, unlike that other professional drug dealer, Walter White.