A lawyer (Michael Fassbender) very much in love with his girlfriend Laura (Penelope Cruz) wants to propose to the woman he plans on spending the rest of his life with, but the issue is that women have expensive taste and the world is in economic crisis. The counselor has the opportunity to be a part of a drug trafficking scheme that will easily make him $20 million along with his partner Reiner (Javier Bardem) and advisor Westray (Brad Pitt), but the delivery is hijacked before it reaches its final destination and all the blame is being put on the counselor. Death is meaningless unless there's someone left alive to send the message home to and unfortunately this greedy lawyer has that bullseye plastered on his back.
Before criticizing "The Counselor," you have to keep in mind that production was shut down in the middle of the film because the brother of Ridley Scott, fellow director Tony Scott, unexpectedly passed. "The Counselor" went back into production a week later. It makes you wonder if the tragic event had any sort of negative affect on the film. Danny Boyle left to do the opening ceremony to The Olympics while "Trance" was in production and by the time he came back to it he had completely forgotten what the film was about and the psychological thriller suffered because of it. Imagine experiencing the great loss of a loved one and then having to turn around and create art that people will enjoy as entertainment and it seems greedy, but it obviously comes with the territory.
Even when you take all of that into consideration, "The Counselor" is just a bizarre excuse of a dramatic thriller. The film makes you feel that either you're three steps behind everything going on or that there isn't enough there to make the conclusions these characters in the film are coming to. The entire story is built around showcasing how much of a ruthless Jezebel Malkina (Cameron Diaz), Reiner's girlfriend, is. With the love for watching her pet cheetahs hunt prey out in the desert at 70 mph, her matching cheetah print tattoo that takes up nearly half of her body, her gold tooth, and expensive taste, Malkina seems like nothing more than an incredibly wealthy woman with a vindictive streak early on.
You realize that Malkina is the one holding the smoking gun. The only issue is "The Counselor" can't really decide why. You learn very little about Malkina other than the fact that her parents were thrown out of a helicopter into the Atlantic Ocean when she was 3. She's obviously a pathological liar, but there's little explanation to her maliciousness otherwise.
The two events that will stay with you forever after viewing "The Counselor" is Cameron Diaz molesting a Ferrari and Brad Pitt's inevitable fear of joggers. Javier Bardem portrays the sex hungry Reiner and in one scene in the film, he tells the story of how Malkina had sex with his beloved car while he was inside it. His description of the event is not only unsettling, but also so idiosyntric and unethical that it's hilarious. Bottom feeders and catfish will never be the same.
The acting in the film fluctuates. At times, it's fairly decent. Michael Fassbender falls apart in a broken down hotel room that is kind of a wonder to behold. Fassbender drools all over himself in this film and is rather miraculous when it comes to what he can do with the snot in his nose. Everyone else seems to be purposely over the top. Javier Bardem acts like he doesn't really want to be there while Brad Pitt's fake laugh will make you grind your teeth. Cameron Diaz goes out of her way to be as cold hearted and malicious as possible, but is never really able to sell the reasoning behind her actions. Penelope Cruz is disposable. Other than pretending to have an orgasm in the opening scene, she has no importance. The highlight is seeing Dean Norris and John Leguizamo appear and have one of the most entertaining conversations in the film.
What's so unusual about "The Counselor" is that it's a film that revolves so heavily around drugs, but the product is rarely seen and nobody is actually shown using said product. Having a film that takes place in Mexico and utilizes the drug cartel without showing much of the drugs is kind of a big deal. The thriller is exceptional when it comes to alluding to events that will occur later while Cormac McCarthy's dialogue is so incredibly poignant. But even Quentin Tarantino would be antsy during the gestating and long-winded nature of the film.
There are some really interesting aspects to "The Counselor," but it attempts to be so intricate that it only gets more and more tangled up in its knots of cryptic ambiguousness. It's as if it experiments with having so many meanings that it literally has no meaning. You never really care about the characters or what happens to them. While it is certainly an outlandish film that you'll be pondering for days, "The Counselor" is too enigmatic for its own good.
"The Counselor" opens today, October 25 in theaters across the country.