We cannot stress this enough, the Counsellor was intended to be the film of the year. The expectations attached to the project were actually monumental and it’s not difficult to understand why. With Ridley Scott signed on as Director and THE Cormac McCarthy drafted in to write the script, this was already earmarked to be the film to look out for in 2013.
Then came the cast, Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and the amazing Brad Pitt. What could possibly go wrong?
The answer is a lot. A lot can go wrong.
Despite the fact that we know Ridley Scott can produce the goods, Alien is undoubtedly one of the greatest films of all time, Gladiator is amazing but unfortunately, is the last good film Scott has directed. The last few productions he has worked on have basically been a list of box office successes but critical failures, Prometheus, Robin Hood, Body of Lies, A Good Year, Kingdom of Heaven, Black Hawk Down, American Gangster. Unfortunately, Scott seems to have lost the run of himself.
The Counsellor is no exception. Revolving around Michael Fassbender’s character, who is always just referred to as the Counsellor, the film tells the story of a wayward lawyer who becomes deeply involved with the wrong crowd and a drug trafficking ring that is completely out of his control. While trying to protect his future wife Laura (Cruz), the Counsellor attempts to get out before his deeds catch up with them, but as with all gangster films, it never ends well.
The above explanation of the plot is a complete simplification of all events. For a good portion of the opening segment, you will literally have no idea what is going on, the plot is confused, the script heavy on the dialogue and far too philosophical to actually decipher what the characters are trying to tell you.
There is no build-up in tension towards the inevitable reveal, the film plods along creating far more questions than answers. It is almost as if both McCarthy and Scott had very high hopes for where the project was going but never actually sat down to discuss what was going on. McCarthy is no Tarantino and while aims in that general direction, it is entirely obvious he should have remained writing books rather than screenplays. He has no concept of the need for action and tension in a film like the Counsellor, it is sorely lacking in both areas.
While there is flashes of absolute brilliance, The Counsellor almost never follows through. Everyone delivers fine performances, it just seems as if they’re all playing characters in different scenarios that are having conversations with themselves instead of with each other. Cameron Diaz almost looks like she has not got a clue about any of the words she is uttering, Pitt is, of course, far and away the best inclusion. Cruz is completely underused in a role that is far beneath her level of expertise. Fassbender also suffers from the same problem.
The length of the film is also an issue. While you never really know what’s going on, you also suffer from the fatigue of viewing badly written conversations from characters who look like they are about to keel over and die from boredom.
However, Cameron Diaz having sex with a car? THAT you will never forget.