‘The Counselor:’ Ridley Me This

The Counselor views like a comprehensive “how-to” of writing a movie with dialogue and plot points so vague that the audience neither has any clue what is going on nor cares for any of the characters. Ridley Scott, a fairly inarguably great director teamed up with writer, Cormac McCarthy, Pulitzer-prize winning novelist (he wrote The Road, which, I will argue, is not that great) for this drug cartel/heist sort of kind of movie.

McCarthy is generally lauded as a great contemporary writer, but The Road (which, granted, is the only book of his I’ve read) seemed to me gimmicky and substance-less, and The Counselor is exactly the same way, only potentially even more generalized and…bad. The dialogue is very literary, which at once makes it clunky and unnatural for the actors to deliver and also creates a strange authorial voice permeates the whole film, diluting any specific character voices. It almost sounds like a Shakespearean adaptation if the Shakespearean dialogue was switched out for a list of words someone made from shutting his/her eyes and pointing to different pages of a dictionary. I’m not sure how on purpose this literary tone is, but it doesn’t matter because it just doesn’t work. There are symbolic scenes and conversations, but since we don’t actually know our characters enough to care about them, we don’t care, and the symbols mean little to nothing.

The plot is as vague as Cameron Diaz’s accent in the movie (she’s supposed to be from Barbados…I think. The details, all of them, were extremely vague). Basically, Michael Fassbender (who is only referred to as the Counselor) gets involved in some deep  s**t somehow…we are never made privy to the details of his involvement, but it’s about money and coke and also nightclubs? Maybe? There’s a sewage truck that has a bunch of barrels of drugs in it being driven someplace, and the Fass is mixed up with Reiner (Javier Bardem), a spiky-haired, cheetah-owning rich dude, and Westray, a cowboy hat wearing Brad Pitt. There’s also a legal thing with an imprisoned Rosie Perez and her drug mule (maybe?) of a son. Also, Cameron Diaz has a gold tooth and has sex with a car. It’s an extended scene, and it’s more than I ever needed to even believe I could see.

It’s a crazy cast, including Penelope Cruz, John Leguizamo, Goran Visnjic, and Hank Schrader himself, Mr. Dean Norris! But none of them are allowed to do anything of note. In fact, I think these great actors were packed into the movie for the sole purpose of having an impressive poster made.

The only saving graces are that Javier Bardem can do no wrong and Michael Fassbender is pretty good at crying. Oh, and there’s a nifty death scene too (though the details of why the death occurred and who actually did the killing and why we should care are fuzzy at best). Aside from a perfectly ruined cast, there is little to this movie. I would counsel you not to see The Counselor.

Grade: C-

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