Review: The Counsellor
I’d like to start this review by saying this: I really wanted to like this film. In fact, I wanted to love it. Unfortunately, The Counselor is just terrible. The film revolves around a lawyer (Michael Fassbender), inexplicably only known as “Counselor”, who involves himself in a drug deal with an extravagant drug dealer/nightclub owner who likes cheetahs (Javier Bardem) and a middle-man who likes women (Brad Pitt). The deal goes wrong, because this is a movie and that’s all that ever happens when a drug deal is involved, and Fassbender realises he’s gotten himself in too deep. Also, Fassbender is going out with Penelope Cruz, who may as well be wearing a sign saying “I will end up dead because of this deal”, and Cameron Diaz pops up every now and again to deliver nonsensical dialogue in a monotone. I’m aware that that’s a really terrible description of the plot, but unfortunately that’s because I never had any idea what was going on (I saw it with a friend who felt the same way, so I’m pretty sure it’s not just me). The film is littered with scenes that have no relevance to the rest of the plot, and characters are frequently thrown in without any explanation of who they are or why they’re there, and are promptly forgotten the moment the scene is finished. The entire story grinds to a halt at one point as we stop to listen to Javier Bardem tell us, in a speech that lasts a good five minutes, about how Cameron Diaz had sex with the windshield of his car (I wish I was making this up). Even worse, we get to see Diaz do just that, whilst Bardem mimics the audience’s shocked and slightly disgusted faces in what I can only assume was meant to be a fantastically clever bit of fourth-wall breaking. At the end of the speech, Fassbender asks him, ‘what does this have to do with the deal?’ at which point Bardem has to sheepishly admit that it has nothing to do with the deal, or the plot, and the entire incident is never mentioned again.
I could go on for pages and pages, pointing out just everything that either made no sense in this film, or was just outright unpleasant to watch. I could tell you about how tonally, it’s about as consistent as a tiger caught in a tornado, as it shifts from gritty gangster drama, to thoughtful discourse on the nature of death, to porn film. I could even tell you about how Cameron Diaz has about as much acting ability as a jacket potato. Unfortunately, my word limit won’t let me, so I’ll end by saying that I do in fact think that this film should be seen, if only as an example of how a fantastic cast, a world class director, and a truly great scriptwriter (Cormac McCarthy, writer of No Country For Old Men and The Road), is no guarantee that a film will be good. That’s what saddens me most about this, the sheer amount of talent that has been completely wasted. So do see it, but see it as a cautionary tale. But for god’s sake, don’t pay for it.