Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Cormac McCarthy
Starrring: Penélope Cruz, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt
The Counselor held a great deal of promise. An all-star cast (Penélope Cruz, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt) and legendary director Ridley Scott all but assured that the film would be a success. But one mess of a screenplay manages to derail the entire endeavor. Famed author Cormac McCarthy (The Road) fails miserably in his screenwriting debut. It seems that being a Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction writer doesn’t necessarily equate with quality filmmaking.
The problem is that there isn’t really any story to be told. The Counselor (Fassbender plays the title character) is somehow involved in a drug trafficking deal gone wrong. It’s never revealed as to what his involvement is, or why he chose to participate. Ditto for Pitt’s character. I have no idea what his role was in the deal. Diaz’s character lounges around with her pet cheetahs and appears to be orchestrating everything while her eccentric club owner boyfriend (played by Bardem) dutifully follows her around.
This is one of those films that tries to be preachy but will never admit to being so. Similar to Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000), The Counselor tries to shed light the far-reaching consequences of the drug trade. In case that isn’t readily apparent, Pitt’s character tells a helpful story about snuff films and how anyone who watches one is responsible for the film’s existence. Okay, we get it. You do drugs; you’ve got blood on your hands.
I’ll admit to liking several things about The Counselor. The performances were good, and the ensemble cast worked well together. Stylistically, it looks good. I actually enjoyed watching the movie for the most part, but when nothing came together by the end, I became a bit disenchanted.
It’s as if McCarthy forgot to finish the screenplay. No loose ends are tied up, and I still had no idea how The Counselor was involved. When you can’t ascertain your lead character’s actual role, that’s sloppy cinema. The Counselor is unsettling and unsatisfying. That’s too bad, because I had high hopes for it being a standout fall film. – Shannon