The Counselor (opening today) begins with a semi-steamy scene between Michael Fassbender (simply referred to throughout the film as "Counselor") and his girlfriend, Laura (Penelope Cruz). The frankness in which they share pillow talk may surprise you.
But it only takes another few minutes before we realize that The Counselor is all talk. Pretentious, self-important talk. Perhaps the film is full of well-written words by screenwriter Cormac McCarthy, who also penned No Country for Old Men and The Road. But nonetheless, not much of what is discussed in The Counselor would come out of the mouths of real people.
The story centers on Fassbender's "Counselor," a lawyer who decides to get in on some sort of drug deal (the specifics of which, are never revealed). His contact person, the well-to-do Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Reiner's wife, Malkina (Cameron Diaz, doing her best Cruella DeVille impersonation) seem nonchalant about their lawyer's new-found involvement. Counselor is counseled on the dangers of the deal by his friend (?) Westray (Brad Pitt), a slickster who seems to have experience with this sort of thing.
Of course things are going to go bad. But maybe not as bad as you might expect.
Here is a film that exudes confidence, but gives the audience little to invest in. With such a stellar cast, helmed by a capable director in Ridley Scott, you can't quite blame it. But wow, what a disappointment.
The Counselor has a lot to say, without actually being important. Characters exist only to speak the cleverly insightful lines of McCarthy's dialogue, instead of the dialogue flowing through fully-realized characters. Nearly every sentence in the film ends with profound wordplay or sometimes laughable parables. "That's cold," Reiner tells his wife. "Truth has no temperature," his wife replies. Others utter phrases like, "You don't know someone until you know what they want." When a bartender begins waxing poetic later in the film, it proved that these weren't real characters, rather, vehicles of delivery for whatever McCarthy and Scott are trying to say...and it mattered not who spoke it. Not that what they have to say is all that clear to begin with.
And how about that ending? It's not giving anything away to say that it ends abruptly and horribly. Why did we sit through this again? If you're like me, you may just be relieved to get up.
I know, it doesn't seem possible that a film starring such A-listers could be such a let-down. A silver lining is Bardem's performance as the eccentric kingpin Reiner and the always effective Fassbender. But to assume the existence of a silver lining, one must first recognize the dark and dreary storm clouds, the type that linger over The Counselor from frame one.
Genre: Drama, Crime
Run Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt
Written by Cormac McCarthy (Child of God, The Road, No Country for Old Men)
Directed by Ridley Scott (Prometheus, Robin Hood, American Gangster, Kingdom of Heaven, Black Hawk Down, Thelma & Louise, Alien)
Opens locally on Friday, Oct 25, 2013 (check for show times).
Be sure to watch Tom Santilli on TV! Check your local listings for “Movie Show Plus” for Tom’s weekly movie review segment, airing at 10:30 p.m. EST every Sunday, on MYTV20 in Detroit.
How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time