The Counselor

Directed By: Ridley Scott

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, and Brad Pitt

Some movies seem like the perfect recipe for success on paper but unexpectedly turn out to be failures on the grandest of scales.  Until today, the best example in recent memory was the 2007 thriller Lions for Lambs.  The film starred Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, and Robert Redford.  To top things off, Redford was playing multiple roles by sitting in the director's chair as well.  As it turns out, the movie was horrendous despite its immensely talented cast and crew.  Today, however, Lions for Lambs can step aside.  The Counselor is that new surprisingly terrible movie.  With awesome actors who have proven themselves time and time again, a prolific director who has given us some of the all-time great films, and a screenwriter who wrote the similarly themed 2007 Oscar winner for Best Picture No Country for Old Men, one would expect better.  As it stands, however, The Counselor sucks.

Despite his recent engagement to the lovely Laura (Penélope Cruz), greed has finally gotten to the Counselor (Michael Fassbender).  After years of doing the right thing and living an honest life, he turns to his friend Reiner (Javier Bardem), a drug kingpin, to help him get involved in a drug deal that's about to go down.  The Counselor also seeks out the advice of his friend Westray (Brad Pitt), a middleman who can help him with handling the finances of this deal.  What the Counselor doesn't suspect is that Reiner's hypersexual, cheetah-loving girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz) could sabotage the deal and thereby jeopardize the lives of those closest to him, including his fiancée Laura.  This drug deal could very well destroy the Counselor's world.

For all the big names behind this movie, The Counselor is the most shallow, overly stylized film I've seen in a long, long time.  The film is chock full of meaningless philosophical metaphors, which is quite surprising given that novelist and screenwriter Cormac McCarthy penned the screenplay.  Dialogue about death, life, and reality is just too aloof for a movie that's about a drug deal gone wrong.  The Counselor is all style and no substance.  With acclaimed director Ridley Scott at the helm offering up his sleek, edgy signature style, this is abundantly clear from the film’s opening to its final credits.  To compound these matters, the film is a complete bore.  It’s full of dialogue that doesn't really lead anywhere.  Unless you're interested in watching Cameron Diaz have sex with a car, there's not much to hold your attention.

The actors are a real disappointment as well.  Michael Fassbender, who generally does great work, was pretty underwhelming here.  However, I don't think it's for a lack of trying.  Fassbender is just not right for the role of the Counselor as he's better with darker, more authoritative characters.  He's just not in his element here.  Considering I was just raving about his performance in 12 Years a Slave a week ago, this is certainly a shock to my system.  For his part as Reiner, Javier Bardem just plays on his typical charms.  There's no substance or depth to his performance as this drug kingpin.  With this in mind, he certainly doesn't give us the badass wielding a cattle gun that he gave us six years ago in No Country for Old Men

For her part as Bardem's crazy girlfriend Malkina, Cameron Diaz doesn't get the job done either.  She really doesn't connect with the audience as an antagonist.  Diaz's flat performance doesn't give us reason enough to even hate her character.  As the Counselor's fiancée Laura, Penélope Cruz doesn't do much better.  Her religious character is pretty oblivious to everything happening around her until the sh*t hits the fan.  Cruz amounts to nothing more than a pretty face in the film, which is unfortunate for an actress of her caliber.  Last and maybe least, we have Brad Pitt as middleman Westray. Pitt is somehow just as bland as Cruz even though he has the much meatier role.  He just plays on his persona for his performance.

It's needless to say that The Counselor is an utter failure of a film.  Despite the many big names attached to it, this movie has no redeeming qualities.  It's just too bizarre, too hollow, and too pointless.  I truly do regret having seen it. If you waste your time with this one, you'll need plenty of tequila shots to keep you going.  The Counselor gets a wasted rating.