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The Counsellor

The Counsellor

the-counselor-posterReleased: 2013

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem

You would hope the most frustrating thing about The Counsellor was the confusion in the spelling (double ‘l’ in some titles, single ‘l’ in the credits), but you would be wrong. Having pushed the knife ever deeper into the Alien franchise with Prometheus, Ridley Scott reteams with Michael Fassbender for this painfully boring and bewilderingly fragmented thriller that will leave a bad taste in the mouth that’s as disappointing as a greasy Tex-Mex meal.

To try and explain the plot in any detail would require more than the word count, suffice as to say it concerns a group of gangsters, all linked by Fassbender’s eponymous lawman, that try to save their own skin when a drug deal goes sour. These include Javier Bardem’s cheetah loving criminal, Penelope Cruz’s generally forgotten fiancée, Brad Pitt’s worldly & wise middleman and Cameron Diaz’s femme fatale.

Writing his first film script, Cormac McCarthy has a lot to live up to. His superb stories have been turned into some of the best films of the last decade, but by the end of The Counsellor you’re going to wish he stuck to novels. Frustratingly unconcerned with story, The Counsellor is less a film and more a collection of scenes all connected by an irritatingly unexplored central narrative. Many scenes are filled with poorly constructed dialogue that’s unsuccessfully trying to impart deep, philosophical messages to the audience, while others seem to have been included for no reason at all. One particular scene, in which Cameron Diaz dry humps a car windscreen, is likely to be the single scene that sticks in your mind as you leave the cinema, mainly because it really is such a bizarre image, but also because it was added in despite having absolutely no bearing on either the characters or the wafer-thin plot.

The cast, particularly Fassbender and Bardem, resolutely try their best to make the film enjoyable. However, each character is so unlikeable that you can’t help but be disinterested in them. Cruz is meant to be our relatable window in to this murky world of drugs and cartels, but she rarely appears on the screen; her longest amount of screen time coming at the very beginning during a sex scene that is far too heavy-handed, both literally and metaphorically.

The problems with character, script and story mean that at just shy of 2 hours in length, The Counsellor is a dull and sluggish failure. McCarthy’s intentions were no doubt laudable, the various speeches on the darkest elements of human existence designed to keep you thinking long after the credits roll. Unfortunately the only thought this critic wondered upon leaving the screening was just how tempted was Bardem to turn on the windscreen wipers while Diaz shagged his Ferrari?


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