Film Review: The Counsellor
Flashy drama has no substance
The Counsellor (16, general release, 117 minutes)
Director: Ridley Scott. Stars: Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz
The Counsellor could hardly arrive in your cinemas with higher credentials. Directed by Ridley Scott from an original screenplay by celebrated novelist Cormac McCarthy and starring Pitt, Fassbender, Cruz, Diaz and Bardem, this ambitious crime thriller has so much going for it you wonder what could go wrong.
Quite a lot, as it turns out. Crucially, whereas films like The Road and No Country for Old Men were adapted from Cormac McCarthy novels by others, The Counsellor is McCarthy's first attempt at an original screenplay, and it shows. The whole thing feels forced from the get-go, and the film's characters tend to spout cod philosophies rather than talk. Michael Fassbender plays 'The Counsellor', a lawyer who decides to supplement his income with a little cross-border drug trafficking.
In this endeavour he's helped by two knowing veterans, Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Westray (Brad Pitt), both of whom deliver grandiose Shakespearean warnings to The Counsellor about the kind of people he's getting mixed up with. And he should have listened, because when the shipment goes missing, a Mexican cartel comes looking for the lawyer and everyone he holds dear.
Ridley Scott's film is vapid and flashy, incoherently directed and hamstrung by its verbose and pretentious script. To compensate, everyone overacts, and only Javier Bardem manages to present us with a character who seems real. The only thing The Counsellor taught me is a lesson I already knew – don't mess with the Mexicans.