Film Review: ‘The Counselor’ is An Exercise in Over-Indulgent, Uneven, Abysmal Shit.

It is no secret that sometimes great directors can deliver a shitty film, but you gotta give it to Ridley Scott for being consistent with the shit storm delivery. His lasts couple of films have shown his downward spiral into over-indulgent-dumb-as-hell-poorly-structured-embarrassing shit. Prometheus was, in my opinion, the biggest offence of them all but The Counsellor has changed all that. The Counselor has fully established that Ridley Scott has lost his magic and should take several years off or simply go into retirement.

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In the film, Michael Fassbender plays the title character who upon suffering much debt has decided to enter the drug business to make some serious dough. His sort of partner is Reiner (Javier Bardem) who has sultry girlfriend in the form of Malkina (Cameron Diaz). At any case, the Counselor proceeds into this new business venture even though his sort of advisor Westray (Brad Pitt) tells him otherwise. Much to no one surprise, the Counsellor first delivery goes array and triggers a domino effect that sees everyone in life threatening situations.

After the disappointment of Prometheus I was genuinely intrigued by The Counselor. First you had an original screenplay by Cormac McCarthy and a stellar cast of veterans that have delivered great performances in their recent films. Everything about it looked like it was made for success but after releasing the first trailer and poster, I had a feeling this film was not going to deliver. But I had never imagined that the final result would be so poor in every sense of the word that I literally wanted to leave the theatre after 20 minutes.

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Okay so let’s break down where everything went wrong. The screenplay by Cormac McCarthy is decent but without the elements that we love about him. His knack for interesting and witty dialogue is only glimpse in a few scenes. The story itself is poorly structured, inconsequential and purposefully made difficult to follow, which is odd because when you get right to it the plot is paper thin. The dialogue also does not connect well as sometimes you’ll hear these exchanges that add nothing. Their presence there seems overtly self-indulgent and like filler. Sometimes when people attain a certain level of acclaim their work is immediately considered to be great and therefore no one has the balls to either question it or change it. This is what happened here as it appears that everyone respected McCarthy so much that they neglected to tell him that the script was shit.

Part of the blame here also goes to Ridley Scott for begin a total idiot. Perhaps he was so excited to be directing McCarthy first original screenplay that he forgot to really examine it and make it his own. This film feels like a directing gig for Scott, meaning that he added absolutely zero to the proceedings. There is also a massive lack of focus throughout the whole film. It’s almost as if Scott didn’t know what exactly was this film and decided to just throw stuff at it. Structure-wise The Counselor is a mess. We are thrown into an already developed story and are supposed to play catch up except that you don’t get a real sense as to what motivates the characters. Yes, the Counsellor says he has money problems but if he didn’t say it we would’ve never guessed it.

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Nothing about The Counselor feels fleshed out. It is all a random assortment of characters and pieces of dialogue that while sound cool totally lose their power because nothing around them make any sense. The Counselor is terribly uneven, especially in the acting department. 90% of the people involved have no clue of what the fuck they are doing and so their characters lack any semblance of personality or noticeable traits. It almost feels like seeing the same actor play different roles and they all suck. Fassbender is utterly forgettable, Penelope Cruz is window dressing and Javier Bardem is the comedic relief that seemed to have dropped by from a  totally different film.

The only two actors that seem to know what they are doing and are actually enjoying things are Brad Pitt and Cameron Diaz. Brad Pitt has the best lines in the whole film and the way he delivers them is great. He install his character with a  degree of sleekness and coolness that is unmatched by anyone else in the film. His scenes are the most enjoyable ones even though some of them go into campy territory. Diaz is the standout of the whole film much to the surprise of everyone. She seems like she understand her role perfectly and runs with it to points where no one expected. She is brave, bold and devilishly villainous even though we have no idea why she does things. Diaz is very interesting to watch but it’s too bad the film itself sucks.

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The Counselor is easily one of the most disappointing and worst films of 2013. It is a compilations of wtf moments that amount to nothing and put together without any clear structure or focus. I’m sure there’s a cool story somewhere in McCarthy’s script but unfortunately none of it is visible in the final product. Likewise for Scott, maybe he was trying to do something different but it all backfired horribly and gave the impression that his heart was not in it at all. This film is just atrocious form start to finish. It’s almost laughable how dismal the film and I have to admit that I particularly hated how misogynist the whole thing is. Worst though was how the film tries to be like No Country For Old Men only to become something that should not even be mentioned in the same sentence.

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Film Spotlight: Prometheus.

Disappointment is a bitch. Even though it may be the product of a variety of things, I’ve found that when it comes from films it touches upon a very specific nerve. There is something about being extremely excited about a film so much so that it populates your thoughts constantly and its what keeps the momentum going. Such anticipation is a double-edged sword, as it can both lead to something that will blow your mind or it can lead to complete destruction. Hyperboles aside, I fucking hate when a film that has so much potential and looks so awesome ends up being anything but. Every once in a while this will happen to me and this year it came from Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.

I saw the film last weekend and ever since then I’ve been trying to figure out and piece together the reasons as to why it failed. If you enjoyed the film then let me tell you how jealous I am of you. I so very much wish I could enjoy it and love it as much I wanted, but the truth is the more I think about the more I dislike it. Of course, Prometheus is not a film completely devoid of merit, because it does get some things right. The visuals are spectacular, the acting is superb especially from Michael Fassbender and the score minus this fucking abomination is actually pretty amazing. However, what I will focus on here is on the things that it got wrong. Now I am not doing this to make you hate the film or show you why you shouldn’t like it. What this basically is is an exercise in the way the film is constantly contradicting itself and opts to adhere to a set of norms that, considering the pedigree of the people involve, seems awfully stupid. Massive spoilers ahead.

To Think or Not To Think? Actually Don’t Think.

One of the great things about Prometheus that I thoroughly enjoyed and praised, since they deviate from the previous Alien films, are the existential questions. It’s very rare for a studio-produced summer blockbuster to dwell in themes about creation and raise question about the biggest mysteries, like: Who created life on Earth? Was it Gods? Was it natural? What do our creators think about us? Etc, etc, etc. A lot of Prometheus, in a thematic sense, is about that search for creation and its overall purpose. Suffice to say that the film is actively trying to make you think and start up some discussions dealing with those questions and themes. Some things are fairly obvious while other are more ambiguous, which if you know me is something I really enjoy. Being concrete sometimes defeats the purpose and I raise my hands and applaud at Prometheus for being obscure.

Having said that, there two ways in which the film contradicts this sort of desire to make you think. One way is through downright stupidity and the second is through laziness. For a film that asks me to think so much it is really fucking detrimental how once I start doing that I find not only an overwhelming amount of plot holes, but also how at the core every character in this film minus David (Michael Fassbender) is suffering from horror-film syndrome. For example, how is it that the person responsible for mapping the huge pyramid and navigates everyone in there gets lost on his way out? Or even more alarming, how is it that all these so called scientists act like scared dumb teenagers? Oh there’s a weird penis-shaped slimy worm coming out of the black water, let me go touch it because it clearly won’t fucking grabbed my arm and them shove itself down my fucking throat. Oh here’s a preserved heard from one of the engineers, let’s stick a rod up its ear and make it think it’s alive because that clearly will give us answers instead of making the only evidence we have to fucking explode. What the flying fuck? Every so-called scientist here is anything but that. They are all so fucking stupid and it’s that sort of stupidity that serves only one purpose: advance the plot. If there is something I genuinely hate about any film is when plot points are used in a forceful manner. When characters only act to service the plot it’s like basically grabbing my face and taking a massive shit on it. This is exactly what I felt when Rapace’s character out of fucking nowhere brings up the fact that she can’t have babies. It’s like the writers thought, oh we have to sort of set up the birth scene so let’s just put this thing about Shaw’s inability to reproduce and then of course follow it up with a sex scene and no real emotion or serious weight.

Advancing the plot at the expense of logic and everything else is recurring theme in Prometheus. Take for example the storm whose only purpose is to separate the group, or the birth scene which is there basically to sort of explain the birth of the alien we know and love. And for the record, why isn’t that birth scene referenced later on? David mentions something in passing, but the scene itself has no weight on any of the characters. It was a damn exciting and awesome scene, but totally wasted in the context of the film. Stuff like that really pissed me off. Then there are the scenes that serve absolutely nothing except give the illusion of excitement. These scene I’m guessing were placed there because the studio demanded some sort of action-set piece to justify them spending so much money on the film. Such scenes include the attack on the ship’s hangar by the zombie ginger scientist. What really bothered me about that is that first and foremost there is no real sense of danger. We don’t know the people who get killed so we don’t care. There’s no involvement there and the fact that the scene isn’t ever referenced afterwards makes me think that no one else in the ship cared. The scene looked cool I’ll give it that, but when an action scene has zero immediacy and involvement it should be deleted.

These leads us to the third act of the film in which practically everything good is thrown out of the window. Not only is the third act a rushed and overly generic one, but it also puts into perspective how misguided and straight up lazy the filmmakers were. When I say laziness I mean it in the sense that the writers opted to simply rush things, make everyone act stupid and overtly withhold any answers. In here is where ambiguity reveals itself to be damn stupidity. One thing is to be ambiguous, but it is a totally different thing to not give us answers because you want to save them for the sequel. This is fucking frustrating, underwhelming and makes everything look so pointless. If this is all in service of the sequel that we will probably never have then why bother? Why not make a film that is genuinely smart and not just pretending to be? Why would people of this caliber adhere to generic norms that serve nothing other than make people want to kill puppies?

So Yeah…

You know what hurts the most? What really makes me just scream in rage? The fact that if the people involved made better decisions, Prometheus could’ve easily been the next masterpiece of science-fiction. There is a balance between having exciting action packed moments, thought provoking things and then combining them all in a natural manner. Characters can act in service of advancing the plot but it has to come from a natural place, it has to be set-up and then referenced later on. One can’t just shoehorn something because the plot demands it and then dismiss it entirely. Otherwise it is all so fucking pointless and that’s what I felt at the end. I walked out of Prometheus with disappointment and feeling like I wasted my time. And that scene at the end that shows the alien was laughable. I said this in my review but for a film that actively tries to set itself apart from Alien, Prometheus really felt the need to constantly reference it in a such a way that actually destroys the whole mystery, mythology and wonder of the unknown that Alien established so perfectly.

If you asked me: would I see Prometheus again? I would answer yes, because as much as it frustrates me the visuals are really something special. The visuals are spot on so much so that they constantly demanded to be in a better film. It similar to what I feel with Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. That film from a visual point is perfect and even though it gets much more things right than Prometheus, it is still a major disappointment.

Review of: Prometheus.

Unlike 2011 which was the year of sequels, 2012 is a year that sees most of the known directors either tackling groundbreaking book adaptations, creating something entirely new or in the case of Ridley Scott, revisiting the genre that placed him on the map. As the director of two of the greatest science-fiction films ever made, everyone was extremely excited to hear that he was not only coming back to this genre but also delving into the mythology of Alien. Even if Ridley and co. actively tried to make us believe that Prometheus had nothing to do with Alien, the trailers proved otherwise. They promised answers to many question like, “who was that space jockey?” and showed an intense and awesome picture. Expectations were high for Prometheus as most people, myself included, were hailing it as the best film of the year without even seeing. Is Prometheus all the we hoped for? Or has the hype painted a different picture?

During Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway’s (Logan Marshall-Green) expedition in of the isles near Ireland, they discover ancient paintings on the wall of a cavern that further prove one of their theories. They’ve discover a strange compilation of circles in the paintings and carvings of various races that lived decades and centuries from each other, suggesting that they all had the same creator. This leads them to contact the Weyland Corporation and years later, these two doctors are on board the ship Prometheus on their way to a Planet they theorized might hold all of the answers. Once they arrive, Shaw, Holloway alongside Meredith Vickens (Charlize Theron), captain Janek (Idris Elba) and android David (Michael Fassbender) make another discovery that will threaten everything they’ve known.

Before we get to what I personally felt towards Prometheus, lets give credit where credit is due. If you’ve seen any Ridley Scott film you know that the man has an impeccable eye for visuals. Scott can make even the most grounded and mundane things look spectacular. With Prometheus, Scott has delivered a film whose majestic aesthetics scream masterpiece. Taking a cue from the master of visuals, Stanley Kubrick, Scott opens Prometheus with a haunting sequence of a planet followed by strange rock formation in said planet. That first sequence sets up the hypnotic, visceral and darkly beautiful nature of the film and it is a style that becomes stronger as the film progresses.

Enhancing the spectacular visuals are the special effects. It is refreshing to see a film use special effects no exclusively for action scenes, but instead to enhance atmosphere and create progressively intense and scary sequences. While the nature shots in the beginning were great, it is the later shots of the ship Prometheus as well as the strange planet itself that take centre stage. They are amazing and when the special effects kick in during the unleashing of the creators, the film turns into a massively intense ride that exhilarates from start to finish. As far as I’m concerned, nothing this year has come even come close to imagery you will see in Prometheus. The visuals are in a league of their own and are the principal reason why I would watch this film again.

Continuing with that exhilaration are the great performances by the actors. All of them are effective, but the three outstanding performances come from Idris Elba, Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender. Elba is awesome as the captain of Prometheus cranking up the charisma to unbelievable levels. On paper his character doesn’t seem like much, but Elba is able to turn the captain into an increasingly interesting and enjoyable entity. You can feel that there is so much more to him, especially when he starts making some questionable decisions. Elba steals every scene he is in and is a character I would’ve love to spend more time with.

Rapace, who blew people away in the Millennium trilogy, is also great in the film. She delivers a performance that is likeable, empathetic and different from what we’ve seen before. Her character starts off very idealistic and naive, but through the events she experiences changes into a strong, awesome and at times disturbing individual. Many people said that Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw is the new Ripley, which is not the case at all. Yes, they are the protagonist but they are also very different characters. From a visual perspective Rapace gives nods to Ripley, but the way she plays Shaw is wholly different.

But the absolute best is Michael Fassbender who plays android David. Fassbender is an actor that surprises with each film he makes always doing things differently. With David, Fassbender truly becomes an android by displaying a physicality that is award worthy. The way he stands fully erect without blinking and with childlike innocence and curiosity in his eyes is spellbinding. I was so glad to see him have such a big role in the film, you can tell Ridley Scott knew he had something special with Fassbender. Moreover, his character is easily the most interesting and engrossing of the bunch. Even when he makes choices that threaten everyone on the ship, you never stop liking him. Fassbender is able to inject the character with such a degree of empathy that you in a way want him to succeed. There’s always something going on behind those eyes and eerily robotic stance. Plus, his character represents a great fold for the main themes explored in this film.

Having said all that, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t extremely disappointed by Prometheus. Every once in a while it dawns on me that having expectations for a film is really detrimental and in the long run easily opens the door for disappointment. As someone who absolutely loves Blade Runner and Alien, I expected Ridley Scott’s return to science-fiction to be similar to those films. I expected a film that would redefine the genre once again or at least to showcase an original and innovative story unlike anything I’ve seen. Unfortunately, Prometheus was not that. Is the film good? Yes. Is it different from everything else? No. Prometheus tells a story filled with interesting ideas that are never truly realized. The film opts to establish more question than answers and for the most part they aren’t questions I cared much for by the end.

Even more disappointing is the fact that once you get down to it, Prometheus is a terribly predictable film. It follows the same format that Alien did, only that this one has better special effects. Also, I felt that a lot was left in the cutting room floor. In some instances certain things were introduced about some characters that felt very forced and whose only purpose was to set up a plot point. Many of things Prometheus deals with feel force, especially those relating to Alien. For a film that Ridley Scott himself says was different from Alien, he sure likes to constantly reference Alien in an attempt to enhance the mythology. Unfortunately, most of the time those references are cool but don’t feel natural and the closing scene ranges from laughable to unnecessary. Prometheus is more concerned with hinting at stuff and then dropping them. Promising something extraordinary and then settling for ordinary. The third act especially is both misguided and stupidly rushed setting things up too obviously for a sequel.

I genuinely wanted to love Prometheus and if you’ve spend time with me recently you’d know that this is the film I been dying to see all year. This is the film that I said would be the Inception of 2012, the masterpiece that we all needed to see. Coming out of that film and pondering on it further, the only thing I feel is disappointment. Prometheus only met my expectation with its aesthetics, but everything else was underwhelming and for someone like Ridley Scott somewhat tame and generic. Do not get me wrong though, Prometheus is a fine film and so far in 2012 it is easily one of the most interesting. It is exciting, brutal and with all the ingredients for a increasingly entertaining film. However, if you’re expecting it to be the next Alien or Blade Runner, Prometheus will disappoint you. To be honest, the only genuine thing I loved about going to see Prometheus was the clip of Ang Lee’s Life of Pi that played beforehand.

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Film Clip/Short Film: Peter Weyland at TED2023.

This clip or short film (depending where you read it) is our introduction to Guy Pearce’s character in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. It gives us a glimpse at the infamous and all powerful company all the Alien films have been fighting against in some form or another. We all know that Guy Pearce is an amazing actor, but looking at how he is able to engage and charm you with his sinister voice and presence in the expand of 3 minutes is really impressive. This a great tease from what promises to be one of the best films of the year.

Source: TED.