A Bentley-driving Texas lawyer (Michael Fassbender) appears to have it all, including a beautiful fiancee named Laura (PenÃ©lope Cruz) -- but his financial needs force him to become involved in an ill-advised drug deal. His partners in the venture include middleman Westray (Brad Pitt), shady nightclub owner Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Malkina (Cameron Diaz), Reiner's sociopathic lover. Unsurprisingly, the counselor's deal spirals out of control, placing both him and Laura in mortal danger.
|Genre:||Crime drama, Thriller|
|Cast:||Michael Fassbender, PenÃ©lope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Bruno Ganz, Rosie Perez, Sam Spruell, Toby Kebbell, Edgar Ramirez, RubÃ©n Blades, Natalie Dormer, Goran Visnjic, Fernando Cayo|
|Directed by:||Ridley Scott|
|Produced by:||Ridley Scott, Nick Wechsler, Steve Schwartz, Paula Mae Schwartz|
FILM REVIEW: THE COUNSELOR
By Michael Phillips
Tribune Newspapers Critic
Set along the Texas/Mexico border but photographed largely in Spain, "The Counselor" is novelist Cormac McCarthy's first original screenplay to make it before the cameras. It concerns a self-deluding and financially challenged Texan who takes a chance involving some cocaine cartel money to dig himself out of a financial hole. Drugs; greed; malice; ridiculous lifestyle excess, signified by the chief sociopath's pet cheetahs: "The Counselor" offers all sorts of pulpy theoretical interest. As a bonus, the violence showcases not one but two really nasty ways to die via beheading, which is one more exotic method of killing than we got with the cattle stun-gun as deployed in the Oscar-winning "No Country for Old Men," taken from a McCarthy novel.
"The Counselor" is packed with cartel goons with bad teeth (just like the unsavory Mexicans of Hollywood's ethnically sensitive past), surrounding a cast directed by Ridley Scott including Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt. All that -- and yet, dull. Why?
For one thing, McCarthy's story zigs and zags, but in slow motion. The character relationships lack the spark and juice of enjoyable trash. McCarthy's dialogue suffers from an excess of capital-W Writing that doesn't sound like speakable human expression, even flamboyant, proudly artificial human expression. When someone accuses the Diaz character of being "cold," she fixes her opponent with a glare and replies: "Truth has no temperature." There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who will admire that line, quite apart from the leaden way Diaz delivers it, and those who won't.
Fassbender's character, whose twang carries a touch of the Old Sod, needs dough to finance, among other commodities, a monster engagement ring for his intended (Cruz). She does not know about her man's deal with the cartel devils. Reiner, Bardem's character, dominated by fright-wig hair in a permanent state of excitation, is the sometime associate of the counselor and has brought the lawyer (Fassbender) in on a new nightclub project. Diaz portrays Reiner's inhumanly tough mistress, the cheetah wrangler, resident sexual fuh-REAK and apparent string-puller of half the globe's nefarious business interests.
The narrative twists itself into pretzels trying to stay ahead of the audience. Fassbender's reactive patsy of a character exists to express shock at what his newfound colleagues will do in the name of frontier justice. Director Scott lends "The Counselor" a solid, shiny level of craftsmanship. But even if we've never personally done these sorts of deals ourselves, at least lately, we've all been here before.
MPAA rating: R (for graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content and language).
Running time: 1:57.
Cast: Michael Fassbender (The Counselor); Brad Pitt (Westray); Cameron Diaz (Malkina); Javier Bardem (Reiner); Penelope Cruz (Laura).
Credits: Directed by Ridley Scott; written by Cormac McCarthy; produced by McCarthy, Scott, Nick Wechsler, Paula Mae Schwartz and Steve Schwartz. A Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation release.
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