** (out of 5)
October 25, 2013
Michael Fassbender as COUNSELOR
Penélope Cruz as LAURA
Cameron Diaz as MALKINA
Javier Bardem as REINER
Brad Pitt as WESTRAY
Rosie Perez as RUTH
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Ridley Scott
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
There’s one thing you can always count on with a Ridley Scott film, and that’s the fact the film will look beautiful and be very well acted. And that is definitely the case with “The Counselor.”
If that sounds like a backhanded compliment, the cinematic equivalent to telling someone in a community theater production that the costumes were nice, it’s because it was a backhanded compliment.
I wanted to like “The Counselor.” I really did. And I’m sure that when I see it again on Blu-ray (or in a few years after the inevitable “Director’s Cut” is released, which seems to happen to many Ridley Scott films), I will likely enjoy it more. However, upon first viewing, in the theater, it was a bore and a chore.
The movie tells the story of a lawyer (Michael Fassbender) who has decided to dip his toe into the world of drug trafficking to make a little extra cash. However, he underestimates the brutality of the people involved in this business, and when things start to go sour, his life – and the life of his loved ones – are in jeopardy.
The screenplay was written by Cormac McCarthy, who gave us such cheery and wholesome tales as “No Country for Old Men” and “The Road.” He’s not known for his gentle touch, and he always delivers a heavy, morose film with many shades of gray. McCarthy lives up to his expectations with this film, constructing some truly twisted characters and unsavory events.
However, like the other works of McCarthy, this is a real slow burn, and Scott respects that in his direction. This is not an action movie, no matter what the trailers and advertisements try to get you to believe. This is a dark drama with plenty of innuendo and inferences the audience needs to decode.
Unfortunately, this leads to a somewhat confusing story that really should be much simpler. There are so many double-crosses that happen throughout the movie that sometimes it’s hard to decipher who is friendly to whom and who is helping whom.
The film also commits the sin of being obtusely disturbing. From the cheetah imagery that goes along with a group of characters to elaborate Rube Goldberg methods of execution that look cool on screen but just don’t feel right in any realistic setting, the film seems hyper-real when it shouldn’t.
Sadly, it’s these off-the-rails events and the bizarre set-ups that make this movie somewhat interesting. However, they just seem out of place, even though they happen throughout the film. To me, they felt like tricks to string along a convoluted story in a desperate attempt to keep the audience engaged.
As I said earlier, the film is quite impressive from a technical standpoint. The acting is really solid, with some stand-out performances by Fassbender as well as Javier Bardem. Even Cameron Diaz, who has never been a powerhouse actor, delivers a chilling performance. Unfortunately, this is all wrapped up in a beautiful-looking movie that failed to grab my attention.
I’m sure if I were to dissect “The Counselor” in a more academic setting, I’d find some wonderful gems in the film. However, it’s just too dull for me to consider wading through it again at this time.