Directed by: Ridley Scott
R. 117 mins
The Counselor promises a good time thanks to the talent both in front of and behind the camera, but the elements are too conflicting; nothing seems to stick and the thrills are not only strange, but curiously dull.
Legendary filmmaker Ridley Scott (Gladiator) and Pulitzer Prize winning author Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men) – in his screenwriting debut – attempt to weave McCarthy’s nihilistic humour with Scott’s slick direction in this bleak drug-war thriller. Michael Fassbender plays the nameless and entirely unreadable, but well-respected lawyer whose one-time dalliance with an illegal business deal spirals out of control. Javier Bardem, in a wig even more horrific than what he sported in No Country for Old Men, plays the sleazy client and Penelope Cruz plays the counsellors fiancé, in a part that wastes her talents entirely. Cameron Diaz, in what is perhaps the most layered character, is the femme fatale who threatens to derail the entire operation. Frankly, the actors should at the very least be credited for holding a straight face while delivering some ridiculous dialogue; McCarthy is intelligent, yes, but most audiences will soon realize that none of this really means anything. It all feels like pretentious storytelling, drowned in Scott’s pulpy stylings and hardly as profound as it desperately wishes to be.
The Counselor is not a “bad film” per say, and for the most part, it functions much like any other Hollywood blockbuster – plus, it’s nice to look at. The problem here is that there is a sense that underneath it all, there is something actually quite interesting but when you really search for it, there’s nothing there. The fact that it has the potential to be so much more is what makes it so disappointing. There are moments of intrigue and events that seem to unfold in a way that would suggest an actual plot is unfolding but in the end, it goes nowhere and the complete disregard for detailed, three-dimensional characters is a disservice to the film and the gifted cast. The pieces of the puzzle are all there, but The Counselor fails to put them all together and ultimately, reads as parody.