When I first heard about The Counselor I was ecstatic to the say the least. A Ridley Scott film scripted by Pulitzer Prize winning author Cormac McCarthy and starring Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt and Javier Bardem, what could go wrong? Then the film started being pulled from festivals and was not screened for critics, and a little red flag went up. Could this sure bet be a let down? Nope, it wasn’t a let down, it was an absolute turd.
Michael Fassbender plays the Counselor, who apparently doesn’t have a name — everyone just calls him Counselor. A drug kingpin (Bardem) sporting a shitty haircut who has a name, but one not worth remembering, hires Counselor to counsel him with his dealings.
“You’re going to regret this” Bardem says along with pretty much every other character in the movie including a cowboy hat-totin’ middle man played by Brad Pitt, who basically plays himself. As one can imagine, shit eventually hits the fan, putting all the characters in grave danger.
First of all, there really is no cohesive story line or plot to The Counselor. It’s just a random assortment of ambiguous scenes of sometimes raunchy but always nihilistic dialogue outlining the soullessness of the characters.
Many characters have monologues that are supposed to be profound but come off as just being mean-spirited droll. Brad Pitt tells the Counselor an extremely graphic and disturbing three-minute story about a girl getting murdered in a snuff film to inadequately prove a point about how humans are monsters.
Towards the end, a character appears out of nowhere to tell a major character a long-winded monologue about love lost that uses college level vocabulary to make the point that “hate bad, love good”. I enjoy films that heavily rely on dialogue, as long as they have a point. McCarthy’s “No Country” was a gabby flick, but it at least it generated brilliant commentary on the decline of America. Here it’s just completely unnecessary and merely for show.
Besides the dialogue being trite all of the characters are unlikeable. The worst is Malakina, Bardem’s materialistic nymphomaniac attention whore girlfriend played by Cameron Diaz who apparently interpreted the script as a comedy. She’s real scandalous, in one scene she goes into a Catholic Church and confesses all her sex-capades to a priest, just to shock him. In another scene, she fucks the windshield of Bardem’s car.
The other major female player is the polar opposite of Diaz’s Malakina, the Counselor’s wife played by a decent but underwhelming Penolope Cruz. She’s the all-too-familiar innocent wife who doesn’t want to know how much her 5 carat engagement ring costs and frequents church a lot.
If things aren’t misogynistic enough having the two female characters represent the two biggest female stereotypes (the prude and the bitch), the male characters share many scenes progressing untrue theories about them. One character says you can hurt and abuse women all you want, but the only thing you can’t do is bore them.
The only truly good performances in The Counselor are Michael Fassbender and Javier Bardem. Bardem is scaled down from his usual manic evilness to play a super chill drug dealer who is smarter than he lets on. The always brilliant Fassbender takes a painfully underwritten and uninteresting role and tries his hardest to give it a soul. Besides never-ending verbal diarrhea, the film features a couple of spurts of incredibly graphic violence including two very inventive ways to murder people.
While there is some amusing and well-written scenes, they are few and far between. The Counselor had the potential to be a great film but settled for just being a major disappointment.