The Counselor

The Counselor

  • The Counselor is to suspenseful thrillers as Cameron Diaz doing the splits on top of a windshield and gyrating her pelvis back and forth is to having sex.
  • Which might be everything I need say about this movie, but I suppose twenty-eight words does not make a complete review.
  • Let’s start with The Counselor’s few merits. First, the film is beautiful, featuring attractive desert landscapes and cleverly designed sets.
  • Second, in between lengthy soliloquies, the script makes a handful of interesting observations on the nature of death, life and moving forward after mistakes, even in the face of guilt and regret.
  • Michael Fassbender and Javier Bardem give strong performances. Brad Pitt isn’t bad either. None of them stretch themselves, and we never forget we’re watching movie stars, but the actors still do enough to make the picture feel better than it otherwise might, if only a little.
  • Cameron Diaz, on the other hand, fails. With her natural wit and humor, she is good in comedies, but, like others come before, this role does not convince me she can effectively capture drama. Now I also doubt her ability to be sinister and villainous. She is miscast here, something that is doubly problematic given that she is meant to be the film’s dominating presence, its femme fatale.
  • Diaz is not the film’s only flaw. The story is almost plot-less, to the extent that Scott and Writer Cormac McCarthy don’t bother to define the nefarious deal Counselor (Fassbender), Reiner (Bardem) and Westray (Pitt) begin, and Malkina (Diaz) supersedes. We never understand what these characters are doing or why, because the filmmakers’ treat the events as periphery to long-winded speeches.
  • Speaking of which, much of the dialogue is unnatural, because characters say too much, uninterrupted, and do far too little. Oh, and because so many characters repeatedly mutter “of course” and/or “Counselor” as frequent space fillers. When first I noticed Bardem’s repeated use of these two phrases, I assumed it was a way to define his character. But Pitt does the same thing, as do many of the minor characters, meaning the linguistic fillers do not define character. They make everyone feel the same.
  • This movie thinks it is analyzing the darker side of humanity, and that by doing so it is generating suspense, but it isn’t, really, because none of these characters have much personality. Diaz is feline and scary. Fassbender is in over his head and naive. PItt is jaded and over-confident. Yay. None of them have much else, and so we never truly care about any of them.
  • Movies that are plot-less and lite on character wind up being dull and boring. The Counselor is no exception. It does not create intrigue. It is not suspenseful. And it certainly isn’t thrilling. It’s just bad.
  • Final Grade: F

7 thoughts on “The Counselor

  1. “When first I noticed Bardem’s repeated use of these two phrases, I assumed it was a way to define his character. But Pitt does the same thing, as do many of the minor characters…” — you nailed it on the head here. So perfectly summed up, and was pretty much what I was striving to say in my review as well, though I’m not sure I got there

    • Thanks. And agreed. I wouldn’t say they saved it – at all. But they made it something better than one of the year’s worst – which it could have easily become.

    • Hmmm. I didn’t know that.

      And much better than Diaz. I’m not a big Jolie fan either (mostly because she chooses such terrible roles), but we know she has some dramatic acting chops and we know she can play an enticing, sexualized villain (Girl, Interrupted – 1999). She wouldn’t have been able to save this movie, though. No one could have.

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