The Counselor: DVD Review
Based on an original screenplay by No Country for Old Men and The Road author Cormac McCarthy, The Counselor dives deeply into the world of drug trafficking.
Fassbender is the Counselor to Javier Bardem's spiky-haired, lurid-shirted Reiner. He's a relatively happy man, soon to be engaged to his girlfriend Laura (Penelope Cruz) and quite happy to skirt the moral boundaries with the criminal element. But a chance comment from Reiner about how he could make more money sets the Counselor on a new path.
Given the chance to make some money from an apparently no-fail drug deal with Brad Pitt's cowboy hat wearing Westray, the Counselor gets involved in a drug-trafficking scheme. However, a twist soon puts him squarely in the sights of the drug cartels and he's running for his life, as well as his bride-to-be.
"You don't know someone until you know what they want" is one of the lines nihilistically intoned by a character in The Counselor.
There's plenty of foreshadowing in this good-vs-evil piece; everyone's warning about the potentially bad outcomes and quite frankly, in among some truly terrible dialogue, it certainly adds up to a emotionless cinematic experience. Perhaps the worst character is Cameron Diaz's Malkina,supposed ice queen and beau to Bardem's Reiner, who sports a terrible dye job and some truly tight trashy dresses. In among some leopard tattoos, dusky eye shadow and a permanent scowl, she delivers a truly divisive performance which has to be seen to be believed. And not simply because in one sequence, you can see Cameron Diaz making love to a car. She's supposed to be the hidden predator in the piece but a lack of any menace or emotion whatsoever means she turns in a performance that is devoid of anything other than shallow button pressing.
Fassbender manages a little better, imbuing his gradually unravelling counselor with the greed and avarice that signals his spiral down - but in a film which continually bangs on about the menace of women and over emphasises predator imagery that's nothing spectacular to write home about. Particularly given that there's little reason given for the Counselor suddenly needing to be part of a major drug deal and score some big cash.
Sure, Scott brings a lurid take on McCarthy's relatively poorly written script, but even he can't bring to life dialogue which belongs more on a page than in characters' mouth on a big screen. Even the threat of beheadings and violence of Biblical proportions (although one character is despatched so ruthlessly on a street that it's actually shocking) can't resuscitate the overall feeling.
Admittedly, in parts, it's a unique take on the drugs' world in terms of being OTT, but with missing elements of suspense and tension as the stakes are raised, The Counselor is a frustrating and often muddled film, filled with cod philosophical debate that offers no psychological insights into these potentially vivid characters.