Though some tried to defend it, we all remember how much of a mess 'Prometheus' was, right? Yeesh. How would the once-mighty director Ridley Scott bounce back from that? Well, he had famous author Cormac McCarthy conjure up his first original screenplay that wasn't based on one of his hit novels. The end result is 'The Counselor' a story that reiterates a point that should be obvious by now, it's bad news to mess with drug cartels.
A man only known as Counselor (Michael Fassbender) is in some serious financial trouble. He also wants to marry Laura (Penelope Cruz), so he resorts to getting involved in the ultra dangerous game of drug trafficking. His association with Reiner (Javier Bardem) and his well-kept wife Malkina (Cameron Diaz) doesn’t help. Against the advice of a peer named Westray (Brad Pitt), Counselor goes ahead and begins to acquire massive amounts of cocaine.
This does not please the established cartels in Mexico.
Will Counselor come out ahead in his shady dealings? Is everyone as loyal as they claim? Will anyone be left alive?
If you get down to it, despite all of his success, Scott is an inconsistent director. 'Alien', 'Blade Runner', maybe 'Thelma and Louise', 'Gladiator' and 'Black Hawk Down' bought a lot of goodwill for him. His output over the last decade has been especially spotty. One thing that he has going for him and where he was miles ahead of his late brother Tony, was that his films are always beautifully filmed. This is no exception even though it's not going for the same grandeur that 'Prometheus' did.
While the movie is a hair under two hours, not overwhelmingly long at all by the genre's standards, it drags. The fact that it has talky stretches isn't a problem, but that many of the exchanges feel like the characters are reading passages from philosophy books is a problem. For all of the wisdom they seem to be spouting, they are willing to take some awful chances. It's also hard to feel sorry for most of the characters (there is one exception) because they are motivated by greed. Most of them knew the danger of their endeavor.
Everything happens that you would expect: brief moments of good fortune for the characters but then things going straight to hell once a certain level of prosperity is attained. To its credit, it isn’t afraid to get very grim at parts, even letting you walk away from the story a little shaken how things are left off. That’s a good thing as many films aren’t willing to do that.
Perhaps most memorable about this film is the fixation it has with people being garroted, whether via high speed vehicles or a heavily alluded-to machine that eventually pays off (of course it would).
Cormac McCarthy has earned a tremendous amount of respect in Hollywood with so many of his books being successfully adapted into films. His way with words doesn’t directly translate into the screenplay. ‘The Road’ and ‘No Country For Old Men’ were stories that were dark, but had memorable parts of the story and perhaps a little subtext. This is all superficial with no room for subtext because everything is expressed via monologue with the finesse of…something without any finesse at all.
The good news is that this is a talented cast and most of them do well. Diaz might be a little overboard in her role, but Fassbender, Bardem and Pitt keep things together nicely.
Special features include: a brief promotional clip featuring the main character.
What we have here with “The Counselor' is a nearly halfway decent movie that ultimately is less than the sum of its parts.
On the bright side, it will make you look at your windshield in a different way.
Add an extra half star to this review.
Rated R 117 minutes 2014