The Counsellor (2013)

The CouncelorTold by local kingpin Reiner (Javier Bardem) that he is not benefiting as much as he might from his position of influence and power, The Counsellor (Michael Fassbender) meets with middleman Westray (Brad Pitt) to inquire about maybe making a little extra drug money on the side. Tasked with trafficking cocaine, The Counsellor’s greed soon gets the better of him as the payload is intercepted and the cartel are left millions of dollars out of pocket. It’s every man for himself, and as The Counsellor plots to flee with fiance Laura (Penélope Cruz), Reiner and girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz) each try to prepare themselves for the coming storm.

Even from the opening scene, in which “The Counsellor” and Laura enjoy a morning tryst between crisp white sheets, there is the sense that we as the audience are already one step behind. Who are these people? Who are they to each other? And why is she not calling “The Counsellor” by name? It is a feeling of disconnect that is difficult to shake, as though you have missed the beginning of the story, overlooked some salient piece of information or failed to catch some indispensable moment of characterisation. Sadly, and as the plot slowly kicks in, the confusion and frustration only get worse.

Before you know where you are the action has skipped from America to Amsterdam, Mexico to London. There are scenes devoted to the discussion of diamonds, only for the subject to be immediately dropped in favour of drugs or decapitation. The script, written by author-turned-screenwriter Cormac McCarthy, fails to hit just about every mark it sets itself, talking the audience through its plot when it should be letting them get there on their own. The Counsellor is in fact an original screenplay, but it often feels more like a poorly adapted novel than a movie in its own right (and not even a very good one at that): it’s dialogue-heavy, meandering in the extreme and so complicated you feel as though you should be re-reading whole pages.

You can’t even distract yourself by concentrating instead on the all-star cast. Fassbender is incredibly unsympathetic as the unnamed lawyer at the film’s centre, and once again distractingly Irish in his intonation. Despite the fact that it takes approximately half of the film for his soulless existence to finally crumble around him, there have been precious few attempts at actually making the audience care about his predicament; Cruz cannot be kidnapped soon enough, while Bardem phones in a performance too reminiscent of Skyfall‘s Raoul Silva for Reiner to qualify as a character in his own right. The only interesting support comes from Pitt and Diaz, though outside of directionless conversations McCarthy can find little to do with either.

The Counsellor at least looks the part, and like Prometheus before it Ridley Scott manages to save another cold, confused and disappointing film with some attractive visuals. “The Green Hornet” gets a nice introduction, and in his handful of scenes proves eminently more interesting than Seth Rogen’s superhero of the same name, only for the character to be offed with little care or occasion. Malkina, too, seems to have have strolled in from a comic book movie, with her feline fetishes making her markedly more memorable than any of the other main characters. But then she was the only member of the principle cast to have sex with a car windscreen.

For all its globe-trotting, drug-smuggling action, The Counsellor is a remarkably tedious and unengaging film. It has the air of a book that has been badly adapted for the big screen, not least because the first few chapters appear to be missing. The name certainly doesn’t help; who wants a movie about “The Counsellor” when the credits also include the considerably more appealing likes of “The Wireman”, “The Third Man Killer” and “The Teen Playing Frisbee”.

1.5-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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