Movie Review: The Counselor (2013)

Posted: July 6, 2014 in Drama
Tags: , , ,

the counselor

The Counselor (Michael Fassbender) is a lawyer who is deeply in love with Laura. (Penelope Cruz)  He wants to marry Laura, and buys her a prohibitively expensive engagement ring, and seems to be set for a life filled with happiness.  The Counselor inexplicably wants to become a part of the drug trade in Juarez Mexico.  He meets with his friend Reiner, (Javier Bardem) and a middle man named Westray (Brad Pitt) and despite their warnings, the Counselor goes ahead with his plan to make 20 million dollars on a drug deal. When a drug courier is killed, and the drug shipment disappears, the kingpin, Jefe (Reuben Blades) goes after Laura.  Does Laura survive?  Who has the drug shipment?

A movie with this kind of star power, directed by Ridley Scott should not be this appallingly bad.  I blame the writer Cormac McCarthy, I’ve read The Road and seen the film, I saw No Country For Old Men, and now there’s this movie, all three gave me a massive headache.  McCarthy’s writing style is enigmatic. There is no cohesive story, no central theme to build a story around.  Is it a cautionary tale about drugs or money or is it an exciting drama about the drug war with sexual overtones? It tries to be both, it ends up being a muddled mess.  The characters are spouting, flowery almost poetic language one minute, and spouting four letter words the next.  Neither the flowery language or the sex talk or PG-13 sex scenes move the story along one iota, and only serves to confuse matters even further.  McCarthy never answers the question why.  Why does a lawyer, with a beautiful fiancé have a desire to join the drug trade? The characters aren’t clearly drawn or delineated, and so the Counselor has great actors, a great director just begging for a good story.

This is the first time I’ve seen Michael Fassbender and his acting wasn’t compelling to me.  Brad Pitt gives a dull, listless rendering of Westray the middle man.  He has a very limited range of skills, limited to comedic action roles. Javier Bardem looks like a troll, I liked Bardem in Skyfall, his character was funny and a nice change of pace.  But this is supposed to be a different movie in tone than Skyfall, and Bardem plays ostensibly the same character, and it doesn’t work in this instance.  Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz, who can be great actresses are used as little more than eye candy.  The other Latinos, Blades, Rosie Perez, John Leguizamo are all stereotypically portrayed as criminals, and there is not one heroic character of any race in the entire film, just men with varying degrees of murderous avarice.

The cinematography is stellar. El Paso Texas and Salt Lake City Utah look glorious doubling for Juarez Mexico, it’s those opening shots the draw the viewer in, just as much the dialogue repels the viewer.  It’s a pity that a great visual director like Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien) had to waste his time trying to breathe life into a lifeless script.

The Counselor.  Has No Appeal.

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