Saturday, October 26, 2013

Review: The Counselor

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
You'd think that a film directed by Ridley Scott, written by Cormac McCarthy and starring Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt would result in something possibly extraordinary - or, at least, pretty damn good.

Alas, "The Counselor" is not as bad as you might have heard, but that's not saying it's all that good either. The film is alternately thrilling and ludicrous as well as overly violent and, on occasion, a bit jumbled. You may not remember exactly which character double crossed the other or why the titular figure, who is known only as "Counselor," is in the mess he's in, but I doubt you'll ever forget the scene in which Diaz has sex with the windshield of Bardem's car. Seriously.

McCarthy is one of America's greatest writers and the plot of "The Counselor" sounds like something he would cook up - shady characters in the southwest, many of whom will meet violent deaths, wrestling with intrigue and talking about Big Ideas. However, it would appear that adaptations of McCarthy's work - namely, the Coen Brothers' remarkable "No Country for Old Men" - seem to play better than screenplays written directly by the author.

The film has that trademark opacity that mark his novels, but work substantially less on the big screen than they do on the page. It's no wonder that McCarthy's masterpiece, "Blood Meridian," has taken so long to be made into a film. In "The Counselor," characters sit around talking about those aforementioned Big Ideas, such as greed, death, capitalism and the nature of good and evil. But the film's characters are a bit underdeveloped and the film's story, which has something to do with the Counselor getting mixed up with a particularly sadistic Mexican cartel, never quite gels together.

Scott is a fine director and all of the actors here are typically quite good, but the film feels more like a bunch of ideas in search of a narrative, rather than a movie. That's not to say there's not some stuff to chew on. Bardem is likely the standout among the cast, although Rosie Perez makes her bit part as a prisoner count.

And, this being a Ridley Scott film, the cinematography is often beautiful and, this being a Cormac McCarthy screenplay, there are a fair share of zingers and memorable lines. And, like I said, that scene with Diaz gives all new meaning to the term auto erotica. But I'd just hoped for much more. "The Counselor" isn't a bad movie, but it could have been a great one.

No comments:

Post a Comment