The counselor (played by Michael Fassbender) is a successful lawyer about to embark into a shady deal with dangerous people.
His “business partner,” Reiner (Javier Bardem), is reluctant to let the counselor in on the deal to move $20 million worth of illegal drugs smuggled into the U.S. via a Mexican sewage truck. Reiner’s reservations are shared by another partner, Westray (Brad Pitt), and both men try very hard to make the counselor understand the gravity of his undertaking and warn him repeatedly of the types of nasty things that can or will happen, should something go wrong.
Despite all this advice, the counselor moves forward with the deal, risking himself and his new wife, Laura (Penelope Cruz).
When Reiner’s girlfriend, Malkina (Cameron Diaz), begins drafting a scheme of her own, everything falls apart and the worst case scenario comes to fruition.
We say, “The Counselor is a little verbose.”
TAYLOR: I went into this one blind. I hadn’t seen a preview or heard anything about the film, other than it was directed by Ridley Scott. By the end of the credits I had noted that Cormac McCarthy (The Road, No Country for Old Men) had written it, so it was likely to be rich and dark, which it is.
By the end of the first scene, which has Fassbender and Cruz in bed, I knew we were in for something serious, maybe even a bit pretentious, which it also is. However, what The Counselor loses in its lyrical novelistic convolution it makes up for in blunt plot points. This is a unique film that dazzles you with intelligent, poetic soliloquy, (or baffles you). Then, just when you have no idea what’s going on, it bonks you on the back of the head and throws you in a vat of acid, but not before exclaiming: “I told you this was going to happen.”
HOWE: It certainly baffled me. Even now, trying to think who doubled crossed who or who this or that guy was working for, still baffles me.
With all the talent that Scott had at his disposal I would have expected a little bit better acting. Pitt rehashed his smooth, mysterious character from Killing them Softly; Cruz just witters on for the 19 minutes or so that she’s in it, and please don’t get me started on Diaz. Who on this planet thought that making a thriller/drama with her as the main female character was a good idea? I’ve seen better acting from the mannequins at the local mall.
TAYLOR: I didn’t have a problem with any performer, or any particular aspect of the film. The Counselor is just one of those blunt, dark films that makes you uncomfortable because the characters inhabit a disturbing world that happens to be based on reality. But just like with No Country for Old Men, I feel like I missed something. So is it me, or the film?
— Taylor gives The Counselor 2.5 bad decisions out of 5.
— Howe gives it 1.5 Ferrari windscreens out of 5.
The film is currently showing at the Galaxy Cinemas in Vernon.
— Brian Taylor and Peter Howe are freelance film reviewers based in Vernon, B.C. Their column, Reel Reviews, appears in The Morning Star Fridays and Sundays.