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.
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.
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.
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.
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.