Review: The Counselor

The Counselor

When I first heard about The Counselor I was intrigued. Ridley Scott directing and a screenplay by Cormac McCarthy? Sounds good to me! Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, and Penelope Cruz starring? Sounds great!

Then there was a trailer and I became ever more excited for what sounded, and now looked, like a great movie.

Turns out I was wrong. The Counselor is a bit of a mess.

The Counselor actually has a lot of things going for it. First off, take a look at the cast: Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, plus a host of recognizable faces in supporting roles including Dean Norris, John Leguizamo, Natalie Dormer, Rosie Perez, edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Bruno Ganz, and I could go on but the point is that the cast is stellar.

Further, Ridley Scott is a more than capable director. I’ve enjoyed more of his movies than not and the ones I’ve enjoyed have been pretty great.

And Cormac McCarthy has written a lot of great books and some of those books have been turned into great films. See No County for Old Men and The Road and even All The Pretty Horses.

Then again, you have to remember that Ridley Scott’s style and voice is cold. Now that in and of itself isn’t necessarily a problem however Cormac McCarthy has a voice of his own and that voice is … nihlistic and bleak. Put those two together and you end up with something that isn’t easy to watch.

It’s worth noting that Cormac McCarthy has only written two screenplays including this one and I don’t know that his writing style or dialogue really work on screen without being filtered through someone else.

All of this would be ok if there was a strong story to drive everything but that’s actually the biggest problem. There isn’t. There could have been but there is so much that isn’t explained about what’s going on and as a result nothing is particularly clear. In fact I saw this with 4 friends and coming out no two of us had the same things straight in our heads about what was going on in the movie.

Another interesting point that I realized is that there isn’t really a main character in the movie. All of them are involved, but the plot doesn’t really centre on any one of them. The closest thing to a main character this film has is the deal, the drug deal that everyone has their fingers in. It’s an interesting idea but it doesn’t make the film any easier to bear.

On the up side of things, pretty much all the actors involved are in top form. Fassbender and Bardem are the standouts, with the former falling to the deepest depths of despair and the latter just being equal parts crazy, creepy, and charismatic. Diaz is no slouch either playing the coldest of the cold hearted characters who also gets to act out a scene that I won’t spoil but will definitely leave you with a “what the fuck did I just watch?” feeling.

And that’s the thing. The Counselor is made up of a lot of interesting, intense, crazy, and what the fuck scenes most of which are pretty great on their own. It’s just that they aren’t really strung together into a coherent movie.

So should you see it? I don’t know. There are things to like but this is a difficult movie to watch. I really want to have liked it but the truth is that I didn’t; even if there are things to like they are outweighed by the problems.