The title of director Ridley Scott's recent film, "The Counselor," is so seemingly benign that it easily creates an expectation that the story will be in all respects good-natured.

The title of director Ridley Scott's recent film, "The Counselor," is so seemingly benign that it easily creates an expectation that the story will be in all respects good-natured. And not to forget its A-list cast.

But consider that the screenplay was written by Cormac McCarty ("The Road," "No Country for Old Men," "All the Pretty Horses"), who does not do benign or good-natured.

McCarthy's fiction springs from the darkest places in the human heart, and though he is a gifted writer, whose words are lovely to read or hear spoken, as is the case of "The Counselor," his narratives takes the audience into a world of unremitting bleakness.

The Counselor (Michael Fassbender) is a Texas criminal defense attorney who, for all of his experience representing some very bad people, while possessing a patina of cool, remains an innocent still. Who is in love.

The opening scene is a beautiful shot of a couple under a nearly diaphanous, snow-white sheet. They are talking, softly, gently, their sexual and personal attraction palpable. The woman is Laura (Penelope Cruz), the Counselor's stunning enamorada. Her sincerity, her commitment to the Counselor, is filled with promise.

But that hopeful, intimate moment is contrasted subverted by what follows. Against all common sense, when the Counselor is offered an opportunity to buy into a multimillion-dollar smuggling deal, run by a vague Mexican drug cartel, wherein a sizeable amount of cocaine will be driven to Chicago, hidden in a battered sanitation truck, he accepts. Both his contacts — Reiner (Javier Bardem), a nightclub owner, and Westray (Brad Pitt), a dealer — caution him repeatedly that should anything go wrong, serious hurt will come his way, perpetrated by people whose capacity for mayhem and violence are beyond his understanding. They represent pure and remorseless evil, unforgiving and lethal.

There is nothing in the Counselor's experience that prepares him for what will follow. As the film evolves, it follows an arc that is perpetually ambiguous and uncertain.

No matter the scene, however, no matter what is conveyed in its compelling dialogue, there is an unrelenting sense of dread that permeates everything, like a taut wire across a road (which is part of a harrowing scene); the film literally hums with a growing tension.

Remember, this is Cormac McCarthy country, and it's no country for the faint of heart. "The Counselor" takes the audience into a world from which they are certainly insulated; hence their first instinct is to turn away.

But it is all but impossible not to take the journey with McCarthy and Scott. Not unlike Steven Soderberg's "Traffic," "The Counselor" is unforgettable, but for reasons that some may find abhorrent and forbidding. Others will marvel at its impact, its raw ability to graphically depict the downfall of a man who has not a clue as to the price his arrogance will exact, nor the true nature of consummate evil. For him, it's an abyss from which there is no return.

"Jackass: Bad Grandpa"

"Jackass: Bad Grandpa" is awful. For a studio to invest in this film is not only cynical, but shows a disdain for everything that is good about movie-making. Every scene reaches for the lowest-common denominator.

Johnny Knoxville, from television's "Jackass," is once again Irving Zisman, wrapped in a geriatric prosthesis, appearing to be 86 years old. He's a foul-mouthed, fraudulently lecherous old man who is forced to take his grandson, 8-year-old Billy, portrayed by Jackson Nicoll, cross-country to live with his low-life dad.

The film skips from scene to scene, giving Irving countless opportunities to convince the unsuspecting participants (unaware of the perpetual hidden camera) that the crude stunts the duo pull are in fact the real deal.

The Jackass crew never shirks from presenting the people who are caught in the Jackass morass as ignorant dupes.

It's a mean-spirited gig, perpetrated by filmmakers who have no regard for anyone. Their mission is to capture the shock of the unwitting.

Not a moment of this docudrama represents true humor, or even slapstick. It simply subscribes to the concept that the outrageous is a hammer and every situation is a nail to be hit over and over again until the tedium overwhelms.

The best thing that could happen to Knoxville is that the audience fails to show up. Enough is enough of this arrested-development nonsense. Irony is defined as creating a movie for 13-year-olds and then making sure its rating is "R."

— Chris Honoré