Putting together veteran filmmaker Ridley Scott with an astounding ensemble cast should be the formula for an exciting dramatic thriller. However, ‘The Counselor’ is actually one of the most disappointing films of the year. The major flaw is the clumsy script by Cormac McCarthy. Yes, the extremely talented Pulitzer Prize winning novelist who has written ‘No Country for Old Men,’ ‘The Road’ and ‘All the Pretty Horses.’ All three books have been made into films. ‘The Counselor’ is his first crack at writing a screenplay. This film is a textbook case why accomplished book authors have trouble becoming screenwriters. Quite frankly, his wordy dialogue works better on the page than on the screen.
The story begins with promise. There are two people frolicking underneath white bed sheets. As the camera works its way under the covers, you feel like an interloper looking at Michael Fassbender and Penelope Cruz. Fassbender plays an American lawyer in El Paso, Texas. He seems to have it all, a beautiful girlfriend, a cool house, Armani suits and a convertible Bentley. He even goes to Amsterdam to purchase a huge diamond for his fiancé innocently played by the doe-eyed Cruz. The sequence of him buying the perfect diamond is one of many unnecessarily drawn-out scenes. It’s all style and no substance. Fassbender’s character doesn’t even have a name. He is referred to as “Counselor” throughout the entire story.
Cut to a scene in the desert with Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Malkina (Cameron Diaz) watching their pet cheetahs chase jack rabbits. There is an analogy here about skilled hunters versus defenseless prey. Good luck trying to figure out which characters are the rabbits and which are the cheetahs. The first half of the film is difficult to follow with long expository scenes. There is a scene showing how drugs are smuggled across the border in a sewage truck. For reasons that are murky, the counselor wants to get involved with a big drug deal. His motivation for getting involved are never explained beyond pure greed. Before Reiner cuts him into the deal, he warns him, “If you pursue this road that you’ve embarked upon, you’ll eventually come to moral decisions that will take you completely by surprise.”
The details regarding the drug deal are vague. Eventually it is discovered that the spiky-haired nightclub owner Reiner is involved in a huge coke shipment worth $20 million. Reiner tries to scare the counselor by describing in gruesome detail what these unsavory business associates do when betrayed. He describes to the counselor a wind-up wire device called a “Bolito” that slices people’s necks. It’s so obvious that this hideous device will come into play later in the film. Another character involved with the drug deal is known as Westray (Brad Pitt). He also warns him of the risks but the counselor still wants in. Westray talks in riddles and long soliloquies like many of the other characters.
What can be said of Cameron Diaz’ femme fatale character? It is beyond silly. She is in several scenes that do nothing to further the plot. In one sequence, she takes off her panties and pleasures herself on the windshield of a Ferrari as her boyfriend Reiner watches in disbelief. Another scene shows Malkina in a confessional at a Catholic church. She wants to confess her sexual sins to the priest just for shock value. The priest is so disgusted that he walks out on her. You’ll want to walk out too. Again, these scenes do nothing to further the plot. This film is a perfect example of how a bad script can cripple a high-powered cast.
Many of you will disregard this review and go see this film anyway. With so many likable A-Listers in it, how bad can it be? It's a complete waste of a talented cast.