The Counselor Reviews
GREG: (Greg Smith, Founder of Agile Writers of Richmond, VA) And it appears he didn t get much counseling on making an interesting movie.
SCOTT: The Counselor opens by showing our lead character, an attorney in El Paso, Texas (Michael Fassbender), in bed with his soon-to-be-fiance Laura (Pen lope Cruz). The attorney, who is never named in the movie, is lured into participating in a lucrative drug deal by one of his clients named Reiner (Javier Bardem).
GREG: Reiner s girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz) is fascinated with cheetahs - so much so that she has spots tattooed down her back. Reiner warns the counselor of the dangers of getting involved in drug trafficking but the counselor is not dissuaded. But things go horribly wrong when someone steals the drugs and it looks like the counselor is involved. What proceeds is a look into the dirty underworld of drug trafficking in South America.
SCOTT: Greg, this is one of those movies with some good pieces, but the good pieces never quite get around to forming a good whole. The good pieces include the casting. Brad Pitt, Fassbender, Diaz, and Bardem truly shine and execute their roles to near perfection. There is some excellent dialogue here and there, and Ridley Scott displays some clever and deft directing in several key scenes. But all these commendable parts never coalesce into a good movie. Part of the problem is a heavy-handed script that perhaps tries too hard to be clever and stylish, at expense of some much-needed pacing. There is also the problem of the film being so dark and lacking in heroic direction that we re left with a story that is bereft of much of anything redeeming or worth admiring.
GREG: Scott, I think you re being too generous. This is a stylish movie - there is a lot of opulence. And a lot of talk about sex. But there isn t much sex. In fact the sex talk is enough to make one blush. This film has a bad case of talking heads. There is scene after scene of people talking about what is going on in the film. And there is a lot of very circular talk about morality. Which is strange because virtually no one in this film has any moral character at all. When you say the film is bereft of anything redeeming you re not just talking about the characters in the film, but of the entire film-going experience. I get the feeling that this was someone s idea of a good novel but lost something in translation when it was written as a screenplay instead.
SCOTT: Now that you mention it, Greg, all the ridiculous sex-talk was a strange distraction from the basic plot of the movie. I m not a prude, and I enjoyed seeing Cameron Diaz as sexy and as sultry as ever. But one gets the feeling that Cormac McCarthy, the screenplay writer, is either a hypersexual or is not getting any at all. It would be an entirely different matter if the sexuality ended up playing some role in advancing the plot, or explaining a character s motives, but it does not. And we re left wondering why 10 to 15 minutes of film is devoted to this needless diversion. I also think you are correct that the movie has far too many talking head scenes, but a few of these scenes worked for me. It s hard to believe that 20 years have passed since Pulp Fiction perfected the art of extended dialogue within a suspense film, and scores of movies have since tried to emulate Tarrantino s masterpiece without success. I m afraid that, overall, I have to agree with you that we can add The Counselor to that long list of movies that can t even begin to touch the greatness of Pulp Fiction.
GREG: And to add insult to injury there are plot lines that are exposed and never completed along with a dozen characters who are introduced without explanation. A case in point is Ruth (Rosie Perez) who is a client of the counselor. Her son is in a Texas jail for high speed racing his motorcycle. The counselor springs the boy and ultimately he loses his life. There are a couple of people that we never meet until the end who give the counselor sage advice. We don t know who these people are or why they re important but somehow their meanderings on the state of existence is supposed to matter to us. This has to be one of the worst movies I ve ever seen. It has some luminary stars which makes it very pretty to look at, but there is nothing of value to be gleaned from the dialog. All the characters (save one) is bad. Everyone is greedy. Nobody learns anything. I was bored to death through the whole experience. Ridley Scott had all the materials to make a great film, sadly he elected to use this terrible screenplay as the recipe. I give The Counselor zero out of 5 Reels and zero out of 5 Heroes and humbly nominate it for the Reel Heroes Hall of Shame. Movie: Hero:
SCOTT: Au contraire, Greg, we ve seen a lot worse than The Counselor this year. I do agree with you that The Counselor was a dank, dour movie lacking in any heroes, unless we go out on a limb and call the counselor himself a tragic hero. Greed and hubris sends him down an irredeemable path. Ultimately, this movie fails by making it impossible to like any of the characters, except for a relatively minor figure, as you mention. The people who populate this film are far too verbose and their occasionally clever chatter cannot compensate for the volume of unnecessary dialogue. I give The Counselor just 1 Reel out of 5 and 1 Hero out of 5. Movie: Hero:
The script is directionless, and the cast has nothing to do. Whatever Ridley Scott saw in this material beyond Cormac McCarthy's name is beyond me.
Its like an ultra-violent Calvin Klein ad. There's a lot of nonsensical flashy images, mindless sex, dialogue that goes nowhere, and pretty people. Don't look for anything substantive beyond that, because it isn't there.
The pacing is horribly disjointed; the narrative bizarre; the character motives unlikely; and the "thrills", a.k.a, the various methods of murder, are unapologetically Hollywood. The film obviously wants to ram a message down the audience's collective throat, but I'll be damned if anyone can discern what that message is exactly.
Perhaps the film's greatest shortcoming is that, despite being promoted with it's stellar cast, the story is not character driven at all. It quickly devolves into a turgid mess hellbent on emphasizing the pitfalls of greed through repetitive, and decidedly meaningless, murders.
The Counselor is a bleak, incomprehensible narrative-centric picture that was sold to unsuspecting audiences as a sexy thriller chocked full of elite stars, crafted by proven filmmakers moviegoers have come to trust. It hoodwinks and disappoints all the way through to the very end. Like so many of the characters within it, this movie is utterly irredeemable.