by / November 15th, 2013 /

The Counsellor

Review by on November 15th, 2013

 2/5 Rating

Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Brad Pitt
Certificate: 16
Running Time: 117 minutes
Release Date: November 15th

“It can’t be that bad can it?”, you ask yourself. Sure, Prometheus made absolutely no sense but that was all Damon Lindelof’s fault, right? This is Cormac McCarthy for Christ’s sake. “He has a Pulitzer prize”, you’ll say. Well, all those warnings were right. It is that bad.

Fassbender plays the titular lawyer who get’s involved in a bad drug deal for some reason that’s never firmly explained — perhaps because he bought some expensive diamond cuts from Bruno Ganz in Amsterdam or, most likely, because in McCarthy’s world, everyone’s moral compass is pointed directly at avarice. Either way, this was never going to end well.

Visually, The Counsellor plays out like a GQ subscribers wet dream. Fassbender wears only the finest cut Armani suits, drives a Bentley and deals take place in crisp, minimalist homes with oblong furniture and all-Apple integration. The movie is dedicated to Scott’s brother, Tony, and the stark sun drenched cinematography of morally bankrupt characters is clearly a nod to the late director. He wants to cover this pristine world in shit, quite literally in fact — a leaky sewage truck plays a key role.  Opulence runs wild throughout as you’re brought further into a world where not only do drug dealers own domesticated cheetahs, they have sapphire encrusted collars. McCarthy manages to continue his penchant for the alluringly macabre — the captive bolt pistol of No Country For Old Men, rampant scalpings of Blood Meridian and baby BBQs of The Road are followed up with innovations involving lampposts, wire and a gruesome tool known as the “bolito”.

It’s all makes for a pretty enticing project but, ultimately, it’s just bloody frustrating. Those who have problems with McCarthy’s Byzantine speak are in for a treat. (Or, realistically, a chore.)  Exposition, or anything resembling conversation, aren’t of importance when there’s bloviated contemplations on greed, hunters and prey, capitalism and catfish to be made. A full shopping list of prestige cable TV shows wash in and out — including a nice nod and a wink turn from Breaking Bad‘s Dean Norris — with little more half a pages dialogue to work with.

The main cast all perform quite well. Fassbender gives a strong performance of a man being pulled apart by malignant forces, one piece of flesh at a time and his final breakdown is realistically snot fuelled. Bardem and Pitt play to recent stereotypes; one a flamboyant and questionably dressed sociopath, the other a smooth talking, Stetson wearing bagman.  She may have had to drop the Bajan accent for fear of sounding like an X Factor contestant mimicking Rihanna but Cameron Diaz sure as hell still kept her animal pelt wardrobe. Her performance as Malkina is so gutsy and just plain disturbed that it makes James Franco’s, gun-fellating, “look at all my shit” turn as Alien in Spring Breakers look like Kid Rock.

He may be paying homage to his late brother but Ridley failed to learn a key lesson: The script isn’t sacrosanct. Tony famously altered True Romance‘s script into something more fitting with his own vision and tonally, for the movie he made, it worked perfectly. He didn’t worry about Tarantino’s thoughts. With The Counsellor, Ridley is too busy pandering McCarthy’s beautiful but terribly boring prose.