Film Review: The Counselor

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The Counselor is the latest from Ridley Scott with an original script from Cormac McCarthy and the results are often terrible.

Normally I would dive into the plot here, but the story is such a mess, with such poor focus that I don’t know if it is worth the keystrokes. Ah, hell, lets give it a shot. We slowly learn a drug deal has been put into motion between Fassbender’s Counselor and Pitt’s Westray, simultaneously the Counselor is going to use the score to go into the club business with a client played by Javier Bardem. The Counselor loves his wife and wants to do the best for them, but all of this is brought down due to some background shenanigans by Bardem’s lady friend played by Cameron Diaz.

Spoilers from here on out, but I will not be recommending the movie so read away!

And here is problem number one, buying Diaz as some criminal mastermind. I like Diaz as an actress, but crime super genius is not in her range. The film also never shows how/why she was able to get herself in the position that she was and between this and some of the worst dialogue I have heard all year, Diaz’s Malkina is one of the worst characters I have seen in recent memory. Sure, she fucks a car and Bardem describes her vagina pressing against the windshield like a “bottom feeding catfish,” but for any sex appeal Diaz brings she doesn’t have the chops, and no one might, to sell this ridiculous character. I was on board with the film until the final act or so and as the film slowly spins away from its title character and relies on us buying Diaz’s Malkina the film comes crashing, spectacularly, to the ground. I went from the edge of my seat to sunken and wishing this fucker would end in the matter of a few scenes. McCarthy seems to relish in the material he has written around Malkina and her victory, I have no idea what he was trying to say with the film. “Don’t try to outsmart the crazy brilliant bitch that we will never show how/why she is so smart?”

Worse off than Diaz is Penelope Cruz, who is asked to do nothing but come in and pout her lips before getting killed off screen and videotaped in a snuff film before being dumped in, well, a dump. The snuff film call back is just one of a few blatantly set up third act moments that are dark and evil in design, but are inappropriately relished in and/or poorly executed. The script goes into grisly detail early on explaining a decapitating device that we know it is going to come back and when it does you are disappointed in that it was kind of poorly executed. Did I mention the poorly CGI assisted Cheetahs, they do nothing cool with them either.

Bardem brings some life to the film every time he pops up on the screen, but he is unceremoniously killed off by the cartel. Fassbender is acting his heart out, but the film is soulless his pain isn’t felt by the viewer. The rest of the cast is full of a bunch great actors entirely wasted. Toby Kebbell puts on a southern accent for one scene, Edgar Ramirez plays the worlds most handsome priest, Dean Norris and John Leguizamo sweat a lot and Bruno Ganz teaches us about diamonds! Did I mention Rosie Perez stars as the coincidental crutch to the film that feels the death of her son the moment it happens?

Scott’s direction is also flat and uninspired. The film has none of the style we have come to expect from the director and the look of the film has no stamp of distinction. The script’s shortcomings also made me wonder why the hell he would ever make this thing in the first place. This is my least favorite Ridley Scott film since Hannibal, which I enjoyed more.

This is a mess of a review that is suitable for a mess of a movie. I don’t know what happened here and the film hooked me in for about a third of its run time. A slow burn to open survives the terrible dialogue, that action picks up in the middle and then it all came crashing to the ground. Don’t waste your time, even if the film has a couple cool things going for it.

The Counselor is a D

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