By Ross Wilson
“The Counselor,” directed by Ridley Scott, written by the great American author Cormac McCarthy and featuring an all-star cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz looked to be one of the best films of this year.
Sadly, the movie fell below expectations, but that’s not to say that “The Counselor” still doesn’t have its great moments.
The movie follows a nameless lawyer (Fassbender) as he begins his descent onto the organized drug trade on the U.S. border with his delightfully sleazy club owner client Reiner, who is played by the impeccable Bardem.
Diaz, as Reiner’s femme fatale girlfriend, Malkina, actually plays against type. She has some devious plans of her own, concerning her boyfriend’s business.
Pitt plays Westray, a drug trade middle man whose only point in the entire movie seems to be warning the Counselor that he stands a great chance to lose everything.
On the flip side of that, Cruz plays Laura, whose only purpose is to simply be the Counselor’s object of love that is everything he stands to lose.
My feelings about this movie are split down the middle, because some things about “The Counselor” are truly amazing.
For instance, say what you will about the plot of any Scott movie, including this one, but the man has an uncanny ability to create just truly visually stunning movies. Something about the way that Scott decided to shoot the grimy underbelly of criminal America with just crystal clear, beautiful cinematography fascinated me.
Bardem’s wonderful performance as the lovable loser of this film simply delighted me. I’m always impressed by how he never plays the same character.
As an added bonus, a wonderfully ironic cameo by Dean Norris (“Breaking Bad”) was also a welcomed surprise.
Unfortunately, “The Counselor” is filled a multitude of problems, but I’ll only mention the biggest.
First off, Cormac McCarthy’s screenplay—which is his first—was problematic because he still seemed to be stuck in literature mode. Dialogue between characters consisted of one character asking a philosophical question for five minutes, and the other character responding with a five minute philosophical response and so on. I found myself wanting to zone out once conversations exceeded 15 minutes.
The other problem was Diaz’s Malkina. Don’t get me wrong, because I loved her character. She was delightfully ruthless, but I just could not take Diaz (or her gold tooth) seriously as a heartless sociopath.
Ultimately, this movie could go either way, so you’ll only truly know if you see the movie for yourself. Word of warning: “The Counselor” is full of sex, drugs, language and violence, when people aren’t talking that is. This bleak movie is not for the faint of heart.