The Counselor (2013)

Amazing. (Shakes head slowly…and sadly). Fellow Cinephiles! The Day has come! The Day in which I must acknowledge that one of my absolutely favorite directors, Sir Ridley Scott, has FINALLY shat out a legitimately BAD movie. Up until this point, G.I.Jane (1997) was easily Scott’s worst flick (in my humble opinion), but this one has usurped it, with ease. ‘The Counselor’ is a dreadful, disjointed mess. Sure, it has Scott’s expectedly lush visual flair, but MY GAWD!!!…what the hell is up with the script?!! (face palm)
Written by Cormac McCarthy, author of ‘The Road’ and ‘No Country for Old Men’, one would think that a kick-ass script would be a ‘given’, especially when complimented by Scott’s expected ‘presentation’. Oh, how wrong could I be! This feels like a rejected story by ’90s sleaze writer Joe Eszterhas (‘Basic Instinct’, ‘Jade’ etc), that’s trying to be SO much more clever and ambiguous than it has any right to be.
First off, the ‘story’. The plot follows Michael Fassbender’s unnamed ‘Counselor’ character as he gets himself involved in a ‘one time’, large-scale cross-border drug transaction. For reasons never made clear, the shipment is ‘jacked’ along the way, resulting in the ‘Counselor’ and his various accomplices being left hanging to take the blame for The Mexican Cartel’s now-missing $20 million. As the counselor and his two contacts, a shady businessman named ‘Reiner’ (Javier Bardem) and a cowboy ‘middle man’ named ‘Westray’ (Brad Pitt), formulate their own contingency plans, the ‘Counselor’ spends the rest of the flick drunk, crying and drooling like a weak lil girl…especially after his fiance’ (Penelope Cruz) is kidnapped as an incentive. Orchestrating the double cross is a horribly-vamping ‘femme fatale’ wannabe named ‘Malkina’ (an awful Cameron Diaz), who has the distinction of a scene where she literally fucks a luxury sports car, in a stupidly hilarious and unnecessarily crass flashback; a flashback that has ZERO to do with the ‘story’. It’s just weird sleaze for the sake of weird sleaze.
I went into this one expecting something cool from Ridley Scott (as I usually do), but I knew within the very first scene (no bullshit), that something was seriously amiss. As the clumsy and immature (and wholly inappropriate) cunnilingus scene played out between Fassbender and Cruz (with dialogue that sounded like a horny 14 year old boy wrote it while masturbating), my uncomfortable mind instantly switched over to wondering just what the hell has happened to RS in the last few years. Sure, his younger brother Tony Scott’s suicide two summers ago happened mid-production, but I refuse to believe that his grief would rob him of his ability to recognize a disorganized narrative, baseless and sleazy characterizations, and completely over-the-top, fake-sounding dialogue.
Wow. The Dialogue. I HAVE to touch on this aspect a little more, given just HOW baffling this shit is. Take the long-winded and pretentious ‘Architect’ scene from ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ (2003), all unnecessary wordings and existential mumbo jumbo, and blow it up to ‘FULL LENGTH MOVIE’ size. The characters ALL speak in this unrealistic and unrelateable manner, as though McCarthy was intent on letting the audience know that he knew what a thesaurus was, and how to use it…ad nauseum.
Not only was the dialogue murky and impenetrable, but so were all the character interactions. We are given SO little information on how ANY of the characters are related to each other, that the story just falls flat on it’s face as a result. Things just…happen, with little to no ‘lead-up’ or sensible explanation.
Speaking of ‘falling flat on it’s face’, the end of this flick is a serious kick in the audience’s teeth, and is basically (and unfortunately) a ‘fuck you’ to those who are struggling to give this damaged movie a chance; a chance it does NOT deserve, BTW. It is SO abrupt and badly-timed that I found myself blinking to make sure that I was ACTUALLY seeing the final credits suddenly rolling before my shocked eyes. The last scene feels like it should be the final part BEFORE we launch into The 3rd Act, where all the appropriate resolutions would occur (at least, in a competently-scripted flick)…but NO!! That’s all, folks!
Aside from a couple gnarly deaths, there is NO resolution for anyone involved. Anything that we’re supposed to accept as logical character and scenario ‘arcing’ is simply bullshit. Man, it pains me to be ripping into one of my cinematic idols like this, but this is my honest reaction to this warm turd. It’s right up there with my sad ‘knee-jerk’ to ‘Prometheus’ (2012), another Scott film that has a beautiful visual veneer, but is seriously marred by some of the stupidest dialogue and character actions in recent cinematic memory.
There ARE a few good things working for this flick, but they are ALL superficial in nature. The cinematography is very ‘Ridley Scott’, meaning lots of gorgeous ‘wide-angle’ establishing shots and ‘gritty but polished’ compositions and edits. There are a couple cringe-inducing deaths and one sweet gunfight out on a empty desert road…but that’s about it. Aside from the slick presentation, ‘The Counselor’ is shockingly ‘Amateur Hour’, especially considering the esteemed pedigree behind it.
There’s a surprising number of strange and out-of-the-blue cameos from people like Rosie Perez, John Leguizamo, Dean Norris and Natalie Dormer too, but each of the characters they play are useless or ill-defined in the scope of the narrative. (shakes head again, in dismay).
All in all, ‘The Counselor’ is a stunningly bad movie that SHOULD’VE/COULD’VE been great, with a director like Ridley Scott behind the lens, and a writer like Cormac McCarthy behind The Words. It’s filled with ridiculous situations, populated by ‘noir’-wannabe, psycho-sexual, existentially-babbling cartoon characters who’s ‘lives’ in this ‘world’ don’t connect, while they just do…stupid and unpleasant stuff. It’s boring and nonsensical. See it on The Big Screen ONLY if morbid curiosity REALLY get’s the better of you. And if you DO brave it…just be ready to kick yourself in the ass as those final credits appear out of fucking nowhere. SO sad.

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