The Counselor
It’s About to Get Messy

One look at the cast and crew of the new thriller The Counselor should be enough to get any lover of cinema excited with anticipation.  Directed by Oscar-winner Ridley Scott and featuring a script written by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy, The Counselor features an all-star cast and promises a crime-laden plot. Although a few entertaining scenes do deliver on the movie’s promise, for the most part it gets bogged down in overcomplicated dialogue, unclear plot turns, and a couple of scenes that are just bizarre.

Michael Fassbender stars as the movie’s main character, a lawyer referred to only as “The Counselor.”  The movie opens by introducing us to him and Laura, the woman he loves and plans to marry.  He buys her a diamond that he cannot afford, but he plans to remedy that by getting into business with a crazy-haired, over-caffeinated criminal by the name of Reiner.  It is not really clear what exactly The Counselor is doing to earn his keep, but it has something to do with a load of drugs being transported from Juarez, Mexico to Chicago.

Brad Pitt as Westray in The CounselorWhen the drugs are hijacked by a third party, the you-know-what hits the fan.  At the request of one of his clients, The Counselor helps get her son out of jail, not knowing that he was involved in the transport of the drugs.  When he is killed and the drugs are taken from him, the cartel is ready to blame and take their anger out on anyone at all connected to him. That means The Counselor, his fiancée, and all of his business partners are in danger.  Meanwhile, Reiner’s girlfriend is planning a heist of her own and she’s not the kind to let anyone stand in her way.

The script for The Counselor is very clearly Cormac McCarthy.  For better or worse, the writer has stamped his style all over this film.  You can hear his voice in this complex, philosophically-charged dialogue and feel his dark take on everything from religion to sex.  This means that some of the movie’s themes, images, and situations are definitely going to be too dark for a lot of viewers.  The dialogue could also turn off some viewers as it is far from conversational dialogue, with every line seemingly trying to say something deep and profound.  Even the actors, as talented as they are, occasionally seem to get lost in the words.  Fans of McCarthy’s work, however, will likely enjoy what is a far departure from your average Hollywood screenplay.

There are a few scenes in The Counselor that are brilliantly staged.  The one that comes most to mind features one of the hijackers plotting to take down a speeding motorcyclist.  Scott lets us watch as this man methodically sets a trap for his prey, not missing a single detail.  He easily could have skipped over all the buildup and cut right to the incident, but instead he follows Hitchcock’s advice, allowing the audience to be in on what is about to happen to the unwitting victim and thus increasing the tension.

This scene is a rarity, however, in a movie that gets a little too talkative, while not necessarily talking about the plot elements that are important for the audience to understand the story.  Whereas the pacing in that scene is brilliant, the pacing of the movie as a whole is very uneven; surprising, considering the film’s director.

The movie also gets bogged down in a few scenes that don’t do much—if anything—to drive the plot.  The Internet is already buzzing with talk of a certain sex scene featuring Cameron Diaz getting cozy with a car, but there does not appear to be much reason for that scene to be in the movie.  It’s very out-of-place and bizarre.  It’s actually a flashback, with Javier Bardem’s Reiner telling us it is something he wishes he could forget.  Well, now, so do we.

Despite the muddled and confusing early plot elements, at the end of The Counselor, we as an audience know where we have been led.  Looking back, though, we still don’t know what exactly led us there.

The Counselor is rated R for “graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content and language.”  This can be a grotesque movie at times and its appropriate R rating is definitely closer to NC-17 than it is to PG-13.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of The Counselor.