The Counselor Review

counselor poster

Ridley Scott‘s latest disaster of a film, The Counselor, is a real nasty piece of work. The Counselor is Scott trying his best to mimic his late brother Tony in style and tone, while also attempting to dig deeper with the script, which was penned by the bleak writer Cormac McCarthy. The Counselor is an absolute failure on all accounts, washing over its story with a seedy batch of detestable characters that are given no weight whatsoever. The Counselor is a cold, rough and brutal piece of filmmaking that highlights Scott’s inability to create something of his own while working in a world that guys like Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone have masterfully created fine works of art in. It’s not as easy as it looks, Ridley.

The Counselor (Michael Fassbender) is on the verge of marriage with his girl (Penelope Cruz). He’s in love and love costs money that he simply does not have. He gets into bed with two men (Javier Bardem & Brad Pitt) on a drug deal that’s sketchy from the get-go, yet he moves forward despite every single red flag that pops up.

Malkina (Cameron Diaz) is a slimy and shadier woman that throws herself into the mix too, by way of sex, greed and a hunger for something much more strange.

The Counselor is a hard film to explain, because even at its simplest core there’s just not a lot going on. Ridley Scott sells it as a studio downer that involves drug smuggling and backstabbing and all of the usual’s for the genre, but Cormac McCarthy‘s script tries to dig deeper and evolve into something else entirely. And it fails on all accounts.

Dialogue isn’t spoken in normal tone and instead delivered with philosophical undertones and a constant attempt at scratching away the surface to poke at something even more dark and unsettling underneath, but Scott almost strays away from the material altogether. He never commits to any one idea and instead tries pushing the film in the most bizarre of directions.

It’s not an easy one to chew on; that’s for sure.

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The Counselor is mostly noise. Lots and lots of unnecessary noise that adds up to nothing. It’s dirty, mean and unforgiving, but it does these things and becomes this type of film for all of the wrong reasons. There’s no closing statement that really brings it alive. Nothing about the film explains why it’s such a nasty piece of work, but it continues to embrace the darkness around every single corner.

Michael Fassbender has been known for making good movies better or horrible movies great. But that’s not the case here. Finally, the very talented Fassbender has found himself in a role that he can’t act his way out of. His Counselor character is a boring, dry and clueless idiot that gets mixed up in the wrong situations and never finds his way out. He’s just an airhead that bites off more than he can chew and not one lesson is learned from his performance. Fassbender doesn’t even seem that engaged with the material either, which makes his work on screen feel bumpy and rough.

Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz don’t fare any better in their short, but sweet supporting roles. I guess Pitt and Bardem can be redeemed with their wonky hair style choices, but that’s about it. Pitt spends most of his time playing it off cool, while Bardem just wonders in and out of the film with a character that doesn’t seem too worried about much of anything. Cruz is given crumbs to try and form into a meal and she turns up unsuccessful, not because of her abilities as a performer, but because she was given absolutely nothing to work with and nowhere to go.

Cameron Diaz is just awful. Seriously, one of the worst performances of the year and clearly of her career. I’m not exactly sure what she was trying to accomplish with her role, but she somehow manages to take a pointless and overly sexualized role and turn it into this hollow piece of boredom that never shuts up. She babbles on and on and tries her best to put on a serious face, but McCarthy’s script just doesn’t sound right coming out of her mouth and from Scott’s clueless direction.

The Counselor is a feel bad movie that accomplishes nothing with its star-studded cast, respectable director and usually solid writer. Ridley Scott clearly has no idea what he’s doing behind the lens when working on a script from someone as dark and unsettling as Cormac McCarthy. But even McCarthy is slightly to blame, because nothing ever reads out like lines from a movie. Everything reads off and sounds like something from a really long book that needs a few more edits before being submitted.

As a film, The Counselor is tough to swallow, because of McCarthy’s script and because of Scott’s inability to transfer it to the screen, despite his disposable talent. Fassbender doesn’t save this one, while Diaz does a hell of a job making it even harder to watch, all while Pitt walks away with a smile on his face and a paycheck in his back pocket.

I’m not really sure if I’d recommend The Counselor to anyone, because it’s such a confusing film that never knows what it wants or how it’s going to get there. Nothing really matters, yet everything is repeated and emphasized as if there’s some great importance or strong weight behind every line of dialogue spoken and every action taken in the film. It’s all just bloated garbage though. Don’t be fooled.

The Counselor – 4.5/10

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