Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Rosie Perez, Bruno Ganz
Written by: Cormac McCarthy
Running Time: 117 mins
Release date: 15th November 2013
I went into The Counsellor with extremely high expectations. Ridley Scott, one of the great film visionaries directing an original script by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Cormac McCarthy, the writer of No Country For Old Men and starring a cast that would excite if even two were together but five first class movie stars! This was an almost shoe-in for a five-star review. In reality, this is a massive waste of talent and the blame has to be put upon McCarthy, lumber, pretentious, ludicrous and ultimately dull script that forgets about plot and character development, instead going for dialogue that no one in a million years would be heard spouting.
A high-powered lawyer called The Counsellor is engaged to a beautiful woman but needs money to accommodate the lifestyle that he has in mind for them. He decides to become a partner in a dodgy drugs deal where a shipment is brought from Mexico and sold on the streets of Chicago, earning him millions in his investment. He is warned that if things go wrong, the cartel would be gunning for him. That is exactly what happens and soon The Counsellor is running for his life when the drugs are stolen along with the money.
As you would expect from a Ridley Scott film, the production values are extremely high and it looks polished and crisp; each shot perfectly set up for the visuals. There is absolutely nothing wrong with his film making style. Although I did wonder why he was making a film about drug cartels. Was this his tribute to his late brother, Tony, as this was the sort of film he could pull off with his eyes closed, or did Ridely decide to just slum it for a while because this wasn’t his usual territory.
It then came to pass that Scott had been longing to bring a Cormac McCarthy novel to the screen for a long time, that of Blood Meridan but considered it too tricky to turn it into a movie. So this must have been a blessing for Scoot, an original screenplay by the accomplished author. Unfortunately, he may be a great writer but scripts don’t seem to be his thing.
It suffers badly from long, drawn out monologues by characters who you are surprised can string two sentences together. These conversations don’t mean anything and in the process, slows the film almost to a stop. They want to be as clever as a Tarantino script but they lack the pop culture references that people can appreciate. At one point, two characters talks, in riddles, about a scene in Body Heat, yet if you didn’t know what they were talking about, you would be wondering why Mickey Rourke was brought up.
The film isn’t badly written and you can see how McCarthy has earned such praise and awards. It just doesn’t mean anything. At one point, a character says “The truth has no temperature!” What? How did truth ever have a temperature in the first place? So in the process of loving the dialogue, McCarthy had forgotten about plot. It’s all over the place and do difficult to follow that you have no idea what is going on. There’s sporadic acts of violence that somehow liven up the procedure but these are few and far between.
So this leave the talented cast floundering for something to work with. Michael Fassbender, who is slowly becoming one the screen’s better new stars, acts his socks off to no avail. We don’t know anything about him and so we, the audience, cannot connect with his plight and cannot emote with him. Penelope Cruz has so little to do, she might as well not turn up and hubbie Javier Bardem, sporting another bizarre haircut, gets to wear outrageous clothes and looks bewildered.
The only person to come up with any real merit is the one person you least expect: Cameron Diaz. As a viperous femme fatale, she is sultry and sassy and oozes sex, even if her hairstyle and wardrobe choice leaves a lot to be desired and one very odd scene, involves her having sex with the windscreen of a Ferrari? (I kid you not!)
By the end of the film, the audience I saw it with verbalized their feelings by shouting “WHAT????” Exactly my feeling. A movie that goes no where and ends with you baffled as to how it ever managed to get to the screen in the first place. My advice to Cormac McCarthy…stick to writing novels and leave the screen writing to the professionals.