RATING: ★½ (1.5/4)
The Counselor is a sporadic, convoluted mess that will surely betray those who were enthralled by the film’s exciting trailer, myself included. What may have initially seemed like a possible Oscar contender is actually a likely favorite at the Razzie Awards, which annually recognizes Hollywood’s duds and box office bombs. After seeing the movie, I felt the need to apologize to my friends for even suggesting it, for we had all been severely duped.
On paper, The Counselor appears to possess all the necessary criteria for an excellent film. Director Ridley Scott unquestionably has one of the most impressive pedigrees in Hollywood, evident in his masterful guidance of films including Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and American Gangster. Screenwriter Cormac McCarthy has demonstrated his creative prowess with novels including The Road and No Country for Old Men (which was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film). Most importantly, this movie casts the acting trifecta of Michael Fassbender (Prometheus, X-Men: First Class), Brad Pitt (Moneyball, Fight Club), and Javier Bardem (Skyfall, No Country for Old Men).
The Counselor chronicles the life of a conflicted attorney (played by Fassbender) and his treacherous decent into the chaotic drug underworld of Mexico. While Fassbender, Pitt and Bardem all deliver solid performances, they are not enough to salvage the film from its choppy nature, extremely complicated plot, and excessive philosophical monologues. The audience is left utterly perplexed by the sporadic chain of events that transpire throughout the film, unable to obtain even a loose grasp of the plot.
Ironically enough, the individual components of this movie are excellent. The actors effectively portray a unique set of intriguing characters. Furthermore, the film possesses an inherently gritty nature and stylistic elements which, at certain moments, can be entertaining. At times, the film even addresses engaging themes such as greed and free will. However, as a collective entity the movie is unable to function in a coherent manner.
Elements such as the vibe, pace and tone are downright bizarre and ultimately detrimental to the overall film. Whether it is the unexpected opening scene of a sexual encounter between Fassbender and his fiancée (portrayed by Penélope Cruz), or Cameron Diaz committing an unthinkable sex act, the movie has a strange, hypersexual vibe. Most importantly, the movie’s individual elements, while worthy of praise, fail to complement each other in a constructive way. The audience is essentially left with a random, schizophrenic assortment of cinematic brilliance.
Perhaps the reason why The Counselor falls flat is the same reason why the New York Yankees are unable to win the World Series every year. Sometimes achieving success is not necessarily just about the amount of talent, but rather about the coordination and collaboration. What should have been an exciting film which infused the excitement of The Departed with the grittiness of No Country for Old Men was nothing more than a series of entertaining skits. The Counselor will undeniably grasp your attention in a captivating manner, but at the same time will leave you very disappointed.
Check out the trailer here!