I Saw A Film Today… The Counselor

the.counselorI didn’t really know what to expect going into The Counselor. I knew who wrote it, who directed it, and who was in it. And I knew a vague synopsis for it. But not much else. But that was enough to peak my interest: A great cast, a legendary director, and a Pulitzer-winning author is obviously a great combo, right? Well…

The Counselor (Michael Fassbender) seems to have a pretty good life. He is an attorney to the rich and legally questionable. He drives around in a Bentley and has a beautiful girlfriend (Penelope Cruz). And, he waxes poetic like a Greek philosopher, just like the rest of the cast in this film.

But even with this abundance of wealth, The Counselor is missing something in his life. Could it be drug trafficking? Apparently so, because he decides to get into the business with help from associates Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Westray (Brad Pitt).

But when the drugs are stolen during transport, all the blame is placed on the three men and the people angry are not a forgiving bunch. Quickly the landscapes of each members live will change dramatically, including the loved ones not actually involved.

Sometimes when you see a film and the cast and staff behind it and you just think, “yeah, that sounds good”. And rarely does the chemistry you thought would make that film enjoyable just doesn’t seem to ever mix properly.  The Counselor is a good example of a cocktail that doesn’t work in many ways, sadly.

You would think a film directed by Ridley Scott would have a well-paced action flick, but instead this is jagged and uneven. Ultimately, there are many scenes in this film but nothing that is cohesively held together. Maybe this sort of slick and frigid film would have been acceptable in the late 90′s, but that was a long time ago. Although to give credit, Scott did include in this film worthy candidates for most grisly death(s) and most unusual sex act involving a Ferrari windshield. You know, if Academy Award categories existed for such things.

You would think that a screenplay written by author Cormac McCarthy would be lively, dark, and sharply literate. Well, at least you get the literate part right. But what I think the fatal flaw of this film is that where McCarthy should have written a book, he instead wrote a screenplay. These characters speak unlike people do, and it’s highly distracting for a film in this genre. I’m not saying people in action flicks cannot be smart nor am I saying I support “dumbing down” anything, but the way these people talk to one another is sometimes boring and long-winded.

You would think such an eclectic cast would be very good, and in the end you would be right. Sure, the source material is not the best but the quality of performances are brilliant. Michael Fassbender continues his hot streak here, and gives one of the most honest portrayals of a broken, blubbering man at the end. Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt are equally enjoyable, which is something I can’t say about most cowboys and Versace-wearing, sun-baked rich guys. Cameron Diaz’s sociopath exotic dancer-turned-Ferrari fornicator (as previously mentioned) is probably the best performance of her career. And short appearances from the talented likes of Rosie Perez, John Leguizamo, and Goran Višnjić are a nice touch too.

There are a lot of negatives to take away from The Counselor. There are a few positives too. What this film may really be is a learning experience for Cormac McCarthy. At least I hope so.

Verdict: Skip it!

* Rated R for graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content, and language. 111 minutes. Directed by Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Alien).

** Thanks to my friend Cody for seeing this with me.

One Response to “I Saw A Film Today… The Counselor”

  1. It definitely is a messy flick. No doubt should be made about that. However, I will give the cast the benefit of the doubt and say that most of them actually made the material better, just by showing up and doing what they do best. With the exception of Cameron Diaz, who felt totally out of her league. Nice review Kev.

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