The Counselor (2013)

The Counselor (2013)

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Fassbender appreciated Bardem's fashion sense, but knew he'd never be able to pull it off himself.
Fassbender appreciated Bardem’s fashion sense, but knew he’d never be able to pull it off himself.

Twitter Plot Summary: Cormac McCarthy throws some words at the page and hopes it forms a coherent script. It doesn’t.

Genre: Crime/Drama/Thriller

Director: Ridley Scott

Key Cast: Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Bruno Ganz, Rosie Perez, Dean Norris, John Leguizamo, Natalie Dormer, Goran Visnjic

Five Point Summary:

1. Dirty pillow talk…
2. The deal goes bad. Nice way of doing it too.
3. Something interesting is going on, at last.
4. Whoop, it’s John Leguizamo and Dean Norris. For a bit.
5. Sorry, but that was the ending? Srsly?

Disappointed. That’s how I felt after walking out of my cinema viewing of The Counsellor. I also thought it was a shame, as so many big names are wasted in a story that doesn’t go anywhere and with a script that is awash with clunky dialogue. It’s the worst use of cinematic talent since Uwe Boll got his hands on a camera and started making movies.

In brief, Michael Fassbender is the titular Counsellor, a legal equivalent of the man with no name, as he gets involved in a drug deal that goes wrong. After an incredibly long build-up stuff starts to happen and Fassbender and his associates are forced to go on the run. In typical McCarthy style we don’t see absolutely everything that would normally be seen in a thriller, instead it’s left up to us, the audience, to piece it all together.

There’s a lot to complain about as far as the script is concerned. Characters move from A to B with no real sense of purpose, the narrative is jumbled/confusing/weird, and the film ends without any real sense of resolution. Cormac McCarthy may be an excellent novelist, but his scriptwriting currently leaves a lot to be desired. Dialogue like this would work on the page, but it doesn’t when it comes to having actors actually speaking it. It all has an air of a pseudo-philosophical ramble about it, content with being metaphysical simply because it can. Being obtuse with your dialogue is one thing, but it’s usually only limited to certain scenes or certain characters. Here? Everybody talks in riddles. It’s exhausting trying to decode what they’ve just said and keep up with the plot.

Guess what's going to happen next. Go on, guess!
Guess what’s going to happen next. Go on, guess!

There are also scenes included apparently for the sake of shocking and surprising the audience. I am speaking of course about Cameron Diaz having sex with a car. Why that scene exists, or why we even had to see it, is not immediately obvious other than the aforementioned desire to shock and surprise. Then there’s the horribly stilted opening scene where Fassbender and Cruz share pillow talk in an almost excruciatingly painful manner. I’ve no doubt that people do talk like that when it comes to pillow talk, but for a couple of big name actors reciting it as if they were performing Shakespeare, it’s cringeworthy to say the least. Blatant symbolism is littered throughout the film (do you like cheetahs? Then you’ll love this), and there’s a glut of small cameos that are welcome but leave you wondering what the point was, in particular as most of the cameo characters have a single scene and then they’re out the door. Kudos though to John Leguizamo and Dean Norris – best scene in the film by a long distance.

The big name stars do their best with what they’re given, but it’s a losing battle. Similarly, Ridley Scott’s direction is flawless but hamstrung by the script. If he’d had opportunity to adapt Blood Meridian like he wanted, then we’d have a far better film. By the time something interesting takes place I’d almost given up hope. There are some decent, albeit minor action sequences towards the second half of the film, typical of the type of action sequence you’ll find in most other films adapted from McCarthy’s novels. When the story finally engages you, it’s too late. Much like the device described by Javier Bardem’s Reiner, the script has already thrown an unbreakable loop of metal wire over your neck, hooked it up to a mechanical device and slowly tightened it until the arteries in your neck burst. Given a choice between a wire-loop related death and watching the Counsellor again, I know which I would go for.

Favourite scene: The biker courier is attacked.

Quote: “I believe truth has no temperature.”

Silly Moment: Cameron Diaz has sex with a car.

Score: 2/5

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