Review: The Counselor

the counselor

A story of a lawyer who decides to enter into the world of drug trafficking but things begin to spiral out of control rather quickly for him. Directed by Ridley Scott with an original screenplay by famed writer Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men), the movie features an ensemble cast that include Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, and Cameron Diaz to name a few. Frankly, this is one of the most disjointed films I have seen in some time. With such a powerful cast, great director, and excellent writer this movie should have been an easy victory. However, the movie just gets crushed under its own bloated weight. With a narrative that is so tangentially put together there is no wonder why I just lost interest after a while. The movie begins with the Counselor (Michael Fassbender) in bed with his soon to be fiancee Laura (Penelope Cruz) as they share what is suppose to be a sensual moment between them. However, the scene made my skin crawl, as it seemed like an adult man with an inexperienced little girl. The dialogue in that scene lacked any sort of realism between two fully functional adult sexual beings. This was my first clue that things might be going off the rails. For an original screenplay by Cormac McCarthy the dialogue felt clunky and all over the place; which is sadly an overarching issue with this movie.

Throughout the movie we get to meet an array of really good looking people who are incredibly wealthy and are living life to the fullest, by any means necessary. One such couple is Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Malkina (Cameron Diaz) who play as the go betweens for the Counselor and his newly found lifestyle as a member of the drug trade. Reiner is an over the top drug kingpin who host lavish parties and is beginning to realize that his ruthless girlfriend, Malkina, is going to be his downfall. Malkina is a cold and calculating sociopath. She uses her hypersexuality as a means to seduce men and bend them to her will. She has an overarching grasp of the totalitarity of the movie’s plot, but due to poor writing its hard to understand why she does. Another key figure in this madness of a plot is Westray (Brad Pitt), a true middle man who knows the drug trafficking game and brings the Counselor into the fold. He is frequently sought out by the Counselor for advice on what happens next. Westray plays as your guide through this world of cartels, shady dealings, and vengeful women.

Cameron Diaz The Counselor

When I sat down to watch The Counselor I was so sure this movie would be a slam dunk. However, 30 minutes into the film I could not truly point to any one story thread that was going anywhere. We are treated to constant expositions by Fassbender, Bardem, Pitt, and Diaz that try incredibly hard to be relevant but just work to lead us further away from the plot. The movie seems to be setup in the style of 5-8 minute vignettes that barely tie together. Characters are introduced and then never heard from again; most of the time not even referenced. There are moments of brutal violence that play to enhance the story’s realness, but they are few and far between. There is little to no dialogue in the movie that works to push the movie forward. Fassbender’s Counselor seems to just ask questions and everyone else seems to be determined to speak in riddles and conjecture to horribly answer said questions.

There are high speed decapitations, public cartel executions, women having sex WITH cars, and those are the highlights. The Counselor, felt more like a 2 hour advertisement for good looking tailored suits, impeccably dressed women, good looking people, and international travel than anything resembling a story of greed and misfortune. The plot was so all over the place that you didn’t care about anyone’s tragedy. The deaths and misfortunes have zero impact because you never get to know anyone. An hour into the movie I thought to myself, “wow when this movie gets going this is going to be something to see.” There was nothing to see, ever.

Javier Bardem The Counselor

The truly odd thing is the acting in the movie wasn’t terrible. Fassbender was fantastic as usual. Sans two scenes in the film I thought he was relatively flawless. He was great as the new guy in this illegal business who just couldn’t turn away. He played both sides of his “normal” life and his “new” life’s work and you generally liked him onscreen. Bardem and Diaz pulled off decent performances, Bardem far surpassing Diaz here. Bardem was able to play a manic yet considerably cool customer when it came to his drug business. Brad Pitt worked well as the envoy into trafficking with his cool Southwestern motif. However, due to his small amount of screen time he was not explored fully. Outside of the principal actors the movie just threw in tons of heavy hitters and wasted them. Ruben Blades, John Leguizamo, Dean Norris, Rosie Perez, and others are absolutely wasted. As a slow truck carrying barrels of hidden drugs goes from Mexico all the way to Chicago effecting the lives of all these people forever, I just simply didn’t care. The Counselor is this year’s The Tourist. A beautifully shot movie with a great cast that should have never happened.

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