The Counselor Review
By Alec R. Lee
I don’t think windshields were designed with that in mind.
Ridley Scott’s latest film has been getting a mediocre reception as of late. And why should it? The man is a legend as a film director, the script was written by Cormac McCarthy who also wrote The Road and No Country for Old Men, and the cast is exemplary. So with all of these stellar elements in the movie’s favor, should you make an effort to go see it? I don’t think that I could do that without mentioning that if you end up not seeing it, you’re not missing anything.
If you watched the trailers, you’d get a rather nebulous idea of what happens in the film. Unfortunately, the entire plot of the film is relatively hard to follow and requires you to suspend your disbelief too many times. So when the trailers could not give you a brief synopsis of what happens in the film, it’s probably because the guys up at Marketing had no idea what it was about, either. Michael Fassbender plays The Counselor, a man who appears to be a lawyer and adviser for people who do less than unsavory things in El Paso. He is asked to become involved in a drug deal with the Mexican cartel in return for an enormous profit. The Counselor’s role in this deal is never disclosed, we never figure out if he’s supposed to be the overseer or the purchasing party on behalf of his client (Brad Pitt). It’s just not told. Simultaneously, the Counselor’s client’s wife (Cameron Diaz) conspires to steal the drugs because she simply wants more money even though she’s currently swimming in it. The movie never tells us what other motivation the wife has to steal the drugs, only that she’s rich and bored. You can see a pattern here.
Things heat up (and get convoluted) when the son of a high ranking cartel member is killed whilst delivering an important part of the drug shipment. The killing was arranged by the wife, but since the Counselor had bailed the son out of jail earlier that day, the cartel now thinks that the Counselor had him killed and is out to get him. This is where the movie starts to fall apart. First of all, the Counselor was asked by the son’s mother to bail him out of jail on her behalf. Surely she could have communicated this to her higher ups back in Mexico but the hombres down there use this small coincidence to pin the whole thing on the Counselor. This happens halfway into the movie where the audience has become rather bored by the hour of talking scenes that they had to endure to get to the violence. And the violent parts are the most interesting parts in the film, sadly enough. There is one tense shootout that has shades of Breaking Bad written all over it and there is a gritty sense of realism to the whole flick. It just doesn’t flow cohesively. The movie, like any of McCarthy’s scripts, ends on a dark note but it’s more disappointing as you feel that nothing was accomplished and no characters were allowed to develop. It’s just frustrating.
That’s not to say that the cast did not do their jobs well (their lack of development is the script’s fault). Fassbender played the role of The Counselor in a very realistic and charming manner, Penelope Cruz is equally glowing as the Counselor’s fiancee/wife. Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt chew into their roles but are not expanding upon them, making them feel rather one-dimensional. TV fans will be pleased to find that Natalie Dormer (Margarey Tyrell from Game of Thrones) makes a brief appearance, and Dean Norris’ cameo as a drug buyer is grin inducing (mostly because of the Breaking Bad nod). But the crazy award goes to Cameron Diaz for her role as the batshit-insane wife, Malkina (interesting name). She is probably the most interesting, and most scary, character in the movie because of her cunning and lack of moral empathy. And there is the scene. Yes, that scene. Cameron Diaz, for some odd reason, decides to straddle a Ferrari California and proceed to hump the windshield until she orgasms. I have no earthly idea what the tone was supposed to be during that scene because for me it shifted from horrified to strangely hilarious in those few minutes. From the look of the film, it appears that the passenger (who was still in the car, watching her) was a little too weirded out by the encounter as it 1. was too “gynecologic” for him to enjoy, and 2. the whole act rather ruined his car. Maybe they left that scene in for shock value as I guess the studio wanted the audience to remember at least one scene from the film.
My guess is that this film was forced on Ridley Scott as part of a deal to make a studio-backed project before he could make a film that he wanted to make. The film had some memorable moments, but they were eventually lost in the confusion and the clunky script does not allow the audience to catch up if they fall behind. Should you watch it? That’s up to you, some might like it, some might hate it. Let’s just hope that Cormac McCarthy sticks to writing books.
Final Score: 50/100