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A thrill-less thriller The Counselor'

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The Counselor The Counselor

Film fails to live up to the talent involved

One of the saddest moments you can have in the movie theater is when you come to the realization that a given film is less than the sum of its parts. 

The talent involved is superb, with a number of talented A-listers in the cast and well-respected figures installed as director and screenwriter. There's a trailer that seems to promise at least a fairly solid cinematic experience.

So you buy your ticket and sit in your seat. And then two hours later the lights come up and you're left to wonder 'Now what in the hell was that all about?'

Congratulations you have just watched 'The Counselor.'

It's the story of a never-named lawyer (Michael Fassbender, 'Prometheus') who is referred to throughout as simply 'Counselor' and finds himself in some vaguely-defined financial straits. Due to his situation and his desire to do right by his fiance Laura (Penelope Cruz, 'To Rome With Love') he involves himself in a drug deal, partnering up with a shady club owner named Reiner (Javier Bardem, 'Skyfall') and his even shadier ladyfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz, 'Gambit') to move a truckload of smuggled Mexican heroin to Chicago; it's a deal facilitated by a middleman named Westray (Brad Pitt, 'World War Z').

Got all that? (And see what I mean about the cast?)

But due to unforeseen circumstances, the deal goes bad. Despite not having anything to do with the sour state of the situation, the Counselor finds himself squarely in the crosshairs of some very dangerous people the sorts of people who have done unspeakable things over much less. He is forced into a desperate race to try and make right what has gone wrong before he or someone he cares about must pay the ultimate price.

Please understand something this plot synopsis does no justice to just what this movie actually is. The screenplay (the first original script from author Cormac McCarthy) is convoluted and unnecessarily wordy; it seems like every character has a tendency to use a dozen words when three will do. The characters are ill-defined and while we don't need to be hand-held through the narrative, a tiny bit of backstory would have been welcome. Add to that the surprisingly pedestrian direction of Ridley Scott ('Prometheus') who should be better than this and you get a suspenseful thriller that is sorely lacking in suspense and thrills alike.

On the whole, the performances fail to elevate the proceedings. Fassbender is an undeniably talented actor and definitely leading man material but his Counselor is blandly unsympathetic. Cruz is game as Laura, but she's more of a plot device than a character. Bardem and Diaz are basically dressed-up stock sleazeballs; the two actors aren't helped by their utter lack of chemistry. The only one who looks to be having any fun is Pitt, who looks to be enjoying the heck out of drawling and wearing a cowboy hat.

'The Counselor' should have been a really good movie. A 'deal gone bad' crime thriller with talent on all sides of the production; Scott's director's eye, McCarthy's literary cachet and a cast absolutely packed with quality performers it had all the makings of a home run. Instead, we get a movie that alternates stretches of barely-engaged boredom with flashes of implausible unlikelihood.

The defense rests.

[1.5 out of 5] 


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