The actors in The
Counselor are speaking English, but I still couldn’t understand a lot of
what they said. That’s because the screenplay, by esteemed novelist Cormac
McCarthy, is so dense it’s incomprehensible at times. The fact that his dialogue
is delivered by some of the best-looking performers on earth offers a degree of
compensation, but after a while even that wears thin, leaving us with a
thriller that’s so bad it’s laughable.
doesn’t waste time with exposition: we meet the main characters without knowing
much about them and are hurled into a plot that seems to have begun before we
arrived. The opening scene, I’ll admit, is a grabber—a very sexy encounter
between Michael Fassbender and Penélope Cruz under a bed sheet. Unfortunately,
it’s downhill from there. Fassbender plays the title character, a presumably
successful lawyer who is never referred to by name. (How’s that for creating a
mystique?) He’s about to consummate a deal with a slick, shady wheeler-dealer
(Javier Bardem) in El Paso, Texas that apparently involves drugs and a lot of
money. Bardem’s female companion is a steely blonde (Cameron Diaz) who enjoys
watching her pet cheetahs stalk their prey in the desert. Violence will be a
recurring theme in this film, in case you missed the metaphor.
The Counselor knows he’s venturing into dangerous territory
and is warned to steer clear by independent operator Brad Pitt, but he proceeds
just the same, because that’s the kind of movie this is: a portentous tale of
foolishness and fatalism, sprinkled with purple prose.
There are tidbits of trashy, eyebrow-raising fun here and
there, including a scene in which Diaz engages in sex with Bardem’s Ferrari
convertible (yes, that’s what I said). But for all their supposed success and
sophistication, the characters aren’t very bright, and the movie gets dumber,
and more obvious, as it goes along.
The Counselor has
an impeccable pedigree with McCarthy’s name on the script, Ridley Scott
directing, and an internationally renowned cast, including some fine actors in
minuscule roles (Bruno Ganz makes the most of his single scene, but I still
can’t figure out what Edgár Ramirez is doing in the picture.) I’d say the movie
was a lark if it weren’t so bloody and ponderous.