“¿Cómo?” (What? How?) A bartender says this to the Counselor in his last scene in the movie. I think the bartender speaks for all of us who manage to sit through the entire 117 minutes of “The Counselor.” “¿Cómo?—How did so many A-listers and terrific actors sign up for this mess of a film?
“The Counselor,” directed by Ridley Scott with screenplay by Cormac McCarthy, is the story of the downward spiral of a lawyer (Michael Fassbender), known only as Counselor. When we first meet the Counselor, he’s in bed with his soon-to-be fiancée, Laura (Penélope Cruz). Although he lives large, the Counselor has money problems which lead him to shady dealings with drug lord, Reiner (Javier Bardem). Reiner lives with girlfriend, Malkina (Cameron Diaz) who has a thing for cheetahs and watches over her own sinister businesses. Brad Pitt has a small, but critical role as Westray, the Counselor’s world-weary middleman. The Counselor is quickly in over his head and his stint in the drug business predictably goes south. Frankly, the rest of the movie is a hodge-podge and makes no sense. There’s a monologue here, a monologue there. Characters come and go. With five minutes left in the film, we are introduced to new characters…Well, hello there Dean Norris and John Leguizamo. And wait, isn’t that Goran Visnjic?
Everyone… and I do mean everyone… is a philosopher in “The Counselor.” I don’t think I’ve heard so much pretentious gobbledygook in one film…ever. How did the actors manage to deliver this dialogue without cracking up? Either there were multiple takes or they are all even better actors than I imagined.
As bad as this movie is, Michael Fassbender manages to rise above the screenplay. For my money, he’s actually much better in this…showing a range of emotions… than he is in “12 Years a Slave.” Brad Pitt is still the best looking character actor in the business. Penélope Cruz doesn’t have all that much to do except look beautiful and she certainly succeeds on that score. What to make of Javier Bardem and Cameron Diaz? Bardem does a laudable job in playing a very likeable drug dealer, but with that kind of laid-back attitude, it’s hard to understand how his character has lasted that long in the drug business. And his hair—really? What is the point? In reality, the way everyone in the film is sweating from the heat, there is no way his hair would be able to stand up like that. Cameron Diaz is a hoot. She’s over the top in every way. Some of it is self-inflicted as this is one of her worse performances. But do they really have to hit us over the head with how much she admires cheetahs? From her cheetah-like hair to her cheetah tattoos to her print clothing, there's nothing understated about her. And it is a miracle that she is able to lift her hands and hold her head up with the amount of heavy jewelry she’s wearing.
I’m at a loss. Ridley Scott is not some schlock director nor is Cormac McCarthy a hack writer—quite the opposite. How did they come up with this piece of junk? Save your money. If you want to ponder that question, ponder it when “The Counselor” comes to your television.