Stars: Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt
Director: Ridley Scott
Genre: Crime Thriller/ Drama
Jolly good, then. Let's get to it. Most of the characters in The Counselor are assholes. No, make that stupid assholes. We know that early on because two of them, a drug mogul and his raunchy girlfriend--Javier Bardem and Cameron Diaz--keep cheetahs (with pretty collars) as pets. These folks have nothing to recommend them to any higher authority as having played the game of life with a whit of conscience, decency, or human compassion. And I've always found it strange (because the mentality exists in real life) that people would risk their freedom, and more often than not their lives, for illicit material gain--when they already have fresh air, clothes on their back, food on the table, a roof over their head, a nice dog (or girlfriend) to lick their face...what's missing here besides your sick, twisted obsession to prove to yourself that you are unworthy of happiness?
Central to this charming tale of unmitigated greed is the defense attorney known only as "Counselor" (Michael Fassbender). He buys his girlfriend (Penelope Cruz) a 3.8 carat diamond ring, then falls in with a big-time drug ring to finance it. One would think that it takes some smarts to become an attorney . There are multiple times when Counselor is asked if he's sure he wants to get involved in all this nasty business, and he never flinches. Ugh. Big ring make need for big money. Mmmm...what possibly go wrong?
Of course, things start to spiral out of control in short order and the noose begins to tighten around Counselor's neck (a pun I won't spoil if you are indiscriminate enough to plop your money down for this) as the Mexican drug deal he is counting on to save his financial ass goes awry. And somebody has to pay.
Along the way, The Counselor pauses now and again for some pretentious philosophizing about life. The movie is getting slammed for that more than for the fact that it's difficult to keep straight who's connected to whom and just how and why. Stuff like when Bardem's character, Reiner, says: "Are you really that cold?" And sleaze-squeeze Malkina (Carmen Diaz) replies: "The truth has no temperature." The screen heats up, though, when Diaz demonstrates the fruits of her workout ethic by doing the splits on the windshield of Reiner's Ferrari--grinding panty-less as he observes from inside. (See artist rendering above!) Later, when relating the story of the incident, he states: "That kind of thing changes you."
A stellar cast will draw filmgoers to this one just out of curiosity. But Cormac McCarthy's bleak and cynical script (his first screenwriting effort) may turn me into more of a misanthrope than I already am. (For the record, McCarthy's The Road was the most soulless and depressing book I've ever read. )
Penelope Cruz provides some sweet steaminess. Javier Bardem adds some darkly comic relief. Fassbender is a clueless wonder. Carmen Diaz has an evil-looking face to begin with--she better guard against getting typecast. Brad Pitt is a drugstore cowboy type who may be the most likable character in the movie.
But none can save The Counselor from going down.
Never mind all the things Tim has already pointed out—a disjointed script, red herrings that never get resolved, unsympathetic characters—my main beef with THE COUNSELOR is not about the film per se. It's about the actors—damn fine actors, too—who let themselves be talked into appearing in such mindless drivel. I can understand why Michael Fassbender might say yes to this turkey, given his sexual track record in "Shame." The opening scene between him and Penelope Cruz (Javier Bardem's wife in real life) outdoes itself in the oral sex department.
But it's downhill from there.
I was so confused by who was gunning for whom that I found myself hoping the cheetahs would make a meal out of at least one of these gangsta narcissisistas. About the only good thing I can say about this endlessly talky film is....I'm thinking, I'm thinking!
I liked Carmen Diaz' fake silver fingernails.