It’s always disappointing when a trailer is much more interesting than the film itself. Unfortunately, that is the problem facing Ridley Scott’s new movie The Counselor. Written by novelist Cormac McCarthy, The Counselor has beautiful cinematography and admittedly two innovative murder scenes; however, these factors alone do not save it from being pretty dull. The film is made up of 75% deep, philosophical dialogue, 20% cryptic action, and 5% Cameron Diaz with a terrible Barbadian accent; not the winning movie formula if you ask me. The Counselor is one of those films that is rich in talent (legendary director, writer and actors) but fails to live up to its enormous potential.
I pride myself in my ability to decipher mysterious plots, where pieces of information are scattered throughout a film’s acts, all leading up to a wonderful, mind-blowing reveal. A movie that makes the audience pay close attention? No problem! However, The Counselor, with its long-winded dialogue and “action” scenes that drop the audience into the middle of an already confusing situation, is so vague it’s easy to feel lost. At times, I wondered if I had missed an entire piece of the film. Had I fallen asleep and not realized it? Instead of channeling my inner Nancy Drew and eagerly trying to figure out the plot’s puzzle, most of my time was spent thinking, “WHAT is going on?!” While The Counselor desperately tries to be an intelligent mind-bending thriller, it ends up a confusing waste of time.
From what I understand (and can give away without too many spoilers), the plot focuses on the unnamed character “the counselor” (Michael Fassbender), who decides to invest in a drug trafficking operation. This operation involves a drug lord named Reiner (Javier Bardem), his girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz) and a veteran middleman Westray (Brad Pitt). Of course, as we all know from the saga of Walter White (for you Breaking Bad fans, Hank makes a cameo in this film) the drug business is never easy money. Pretty quickly the counselor realizes he’s in over his head and has dangerous people looking to hurt him. But how will he be able to recoup his large financial investment and keep his fiancé Laura (Penelope Cruz) safe?
The main saving grace of this film is the terrific performance from Michael Fassbender (or as a friend calls him, “Fassy”). Fassbender excels at making typically unlikeable characters, likeable. Even though most of the dialogue was too deep and melodramatic, Fassbender uses his charisma to make the character as real as possible; it’s obvious that he was doing the best he could with difficult material. Brad Pitt and Penelope Cruz also gave good performances, but sadly their characters were easily overshadowed by the unnecessarily complicated script
Javier Bardem’s performance was decent, though his character Reiner pales in comparison to his villainous role in No Country For Old Men (based on a McCarthy novel). In The Counselor, Bardem’s character is extremely over-the-top and cartoon-like, making a lot of his scenes and interactions with Fassbender hard to take seriously. Would a smart attorney really trust an eccentric nightclub owner (with a penchant for crazy women and cheetahs) to handle his business dealings?
I don’t even know where to begin with Cameron Diaz’s character Malkina. One, what is that name? Two, what is that terrible Barbadian accent that goes in and out throughout the film? And three, what in the world is up with that random scene where she has sex with a car (though in all honesty, that was one of the most memorable and entertaining parts of the entire film so I won’t give it too much criticism). I think this will officially go on my list of one of the most miscast roles of 2013.
At times it seemed Mr. McCarthy forgot he was writing a thriller and instead focused on the philosophical dialogue one would study in a college literature class. It’s a completely different style of writing to go from a novel to a screenplay, and it seems that is one of the main factors missing in The Counselor. Fassbender is great, as always, but this is one movie I can’t imagine watching again… though it did reaffirm my inclination to avoid motorcycles.
My Review: C-/D+