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Movie review: The Counsellor
There are various reasons why an actor will sign on to do a project, and one of the key decisions that will sway that decision will be the calibre of the director. So although it's surprising to see Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt all in the same film, it's less of a surprise that they signed on for a Ridley Scott film.
This fine cast may well have been enamoured by the prospect of working with this well respected British director, but someone really ought to have put a copy of the script in from of them too, because if they had indeed read it, they surely would have had second thoughts.
Lying in bed, naked, with his girlfriend Laura (Cruz), you can tell that the man who only goes by the name Counsellor (Fassbender), is a happy chappy. Things are going well in his work life too; he's doing so well that he's able to invest in a new club with his friend Reiner (Bardem). This isn't the only work they dabble in though.
Their main income is made from the transportation of drugs from Mexico into the US. It's a risky venture, obviously, but comes with massive financial rewards.
The Counsellor is actually a real lawyer too. It's when he's visiting one of his clients in prison, Ruth (Rosie Perez), that she asks him a favour; her son has been done for speeding and she asks if he could help him out. He agrees.
It's only a small, insignificant job, but it's also the first domino down that will make a serious impact on his whole life, as well as those around him.
As well as having Scott on board and a terrific cast attached, the film is also the first film screenplay to be written by acclaimed novelist Cormac McCarthy. With so much quality on board, how could it possibly go so wrong?
The main offender is the script, which is a huge, disjointed mess. It is nothing more than a collection of admittedly quirky performances, sloshing around in a wet bag of a script. The narrative is a join the dots puzzle, but one with some major points completely missing.
It doesn't help that it's set in a world full of disengaging characters. None of them are particularly likeable, which makes it so much easier to not care about any of them. Surprisingly Diaz probably comes out of it the best, with what amounts to an audition piece for a future Bond villain. There's also a scene where she uses her lady parts as window wipers which won't be forgotten in a hurry. That's what putting all your trust in a director can do for you.
Sadly, Scott seems all at sea with the material. He directs with a complete lack of cohesiveness, and well, direction. There's a possibility that his reputation now outweighs his ability. But the truth is, he made two pretty decent films in the early eighties (Alien and Blade Runner), and much of his output since has been highly over-rated. And yes, that includes the dire Oscar-winning Gladiator (ask yourself, is it really a better film than Soderburgh's Traffic, that was also nominated for the best film of 2001? The answer you're looking for is a resounding 'no').
Perhaps Fassbender et al believed they were involved in a serious piece of cinema. They weren't and it's not. Maybe they thought it was sexy, in a European way – it's not; the film may well be the first to feature oral sex in a pre opening titles scene, but the dialogue used is some of the worst in a long time that is bound to make you cringe than aroused. And Diaz mounted on a windscreen is only likely to serve as a reminder to top up your windscreen fluid.
No one comes out of this is in a good light. In fact, there's a chance that everyone involved, including the audience, may need some counselling to get over such a sour experience.
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