An unusual misfire from Ridley Scott ("Thelma and Louise," "Blade Runner"), "The Counselor" is nothing you haven’t seen done better elsewhere. Sure, it’s stylish and has a big-name cast, but those attributes alone do not a good movie make. This one isn’t going to last long at the box office.
About 45 minutes into this movie, I wrote in my notes: "I have no idea what this movie is about." Then I realized it was a lame story about a corrupt lawyer who gets involved with some very bad people. Yawn.
The ubiquitous Michael Fassbender (go see him in "12 Years A Slave" instead) is Counselor (that’s his name... how smart), a handsome lawyer who has just proposed to his girlfriend, Laura (Penelope Cruz). Cameron Diaz (under pounds of makeup making her look much older than her 41 years, but camping it up nicely) and Javier Bardem play an outrageously fashionable, yet shady couple involved in... something.
Then we have Brad Pitt as some sort of cowboy/drug dealer/generally mysterious dude who struts around from exotic location to exotic location doing something. That’s the thing with this movie; I really had no idea what anyone did or what his or her connection to each other was. As a result I didn’t care. I just looked at the pretty pictures.
The pictures certainly were pretty, though. Ridley Scott (not to mention his late brother, Tony) is one of the foremost visual stylists in the cinema. What he does with a camera most men can’t achieve with their hands! But in "The Counselor," he seems to have forgotten that a coherent and interesting story must accompany his visuals in order to create a compelling motion picture. It’s all surface here. The one good scene, and it’s a doozy, has Cameron Diaz essentially screwing a windshield. You have to see it to believe it! But that’s one good scene in a movie fatally devoid of them.
Screenwriter Cormac McCarthy seems to be trying to go for Mamet-esque repartee with his characters, but the dialogue falls flat, partly because the connection between the characters is so tenuous. We don’t care enough about them to really care how witty their banter is. Furthermore, the dialogue is in the service of a story so slight that it would crush under the weight of Diaz’s makeup.
All of the actors look like they are having fun, particularly Diaz and Bardem. But what about the audience? I, for one, wasn’t having any fun. Frankly, I was ruminating about how numb my ass was going to be when I got up.