Some aspects of “The Counselor,” like its cinematography, are as glamorous as the lifestyles portrayed in the movie, however, as a whole it is still a mess for the most part.
The story follows a man with no name. Not literally mind you, but Michael Fassbender is referred to as the Counselor through the entire film by everyone in the cast. The counselor is a lawyer who has some friends that can be considered the wrong crowd to be around.
After Counselor gets engaged to a woman named Laura (Cruz), things start to take a turn for the worse as he finds himself more and more in over his head with powerful drug cartels.
Cormac McCarthy, known for his dark toned novels that includes “No Country for Old Men,” wrote the film with Ridley Scott directing. Throughout the movie, McCarthy’s dark tone is fully injected, with the film having a bleak outlook on things and having very little hope for a good outcome.
The film’s dark tone make for an experience that is more theme and message driven, as opposed to a character centered plot. Not to say that this can’t work, but it just doesn’t work as much here.
The problem with the film’s story is that much of it is too heavily foreshadowed early on with a lot of symbolic gestures and conversations. It removes tension from a few of the scenes because there were parts that were already expected.
On top of that, the story works in a tale of two halves. The first features a lot of the supporting cast telling Counselor not to get involved, and the second shows the cast telling him that now that he’s involved and things didn’t go well, he’s pretty much screwed.
It’s a simple premise that never really becomes truly engaging and the film tries to make up for it by having too many monologues that go on too long.
The monologues are done by nearly every character too, from Javier Bardem to Cameron Diaz, and they are either there for too much foreshadowing or just to shove the film’s gritty world view to the audience more. It’s just too much. The over abundance of the monologues just make them feel unnatural and unconvincing leading to the characters themselves feeling unbelievable.
In terms of the delivery of the monologues and the rest of the dialogue for that matter, it’s done alright. The film obviously has a good amount of acting talent having Fassbender, Pitt and Bardem, and the three of them do a good enough job with it. Bardem is great on screen and Fassbender holds his own well.
Penelope Cruz has very little screen time in the film, but when she’s in a scene she does a respectable job. The same can’t be said for Cameron Diaz, who seems too over the top in her role. She is suppose to be a femme fetale, but she more or less comes across as the spawn of Satan. Diaz feels more like a caricature in the film than an actual character.
Overall, “The Counselor” fails in comparison to a movie like “The Departed.” “The Departed” shows a view of a gritty crime world with characters in very deep too, and it seemed to work well. It doesn’t work as well here in “The Counselor.” The best way to show it is the final scenes.
A bit of a spoiler here – In “The Counselor,” Diaz gives another monologue that feels pretentious. “The Departed” simply shows a rat on the window sill, a symbolic gesture that gives a nod to the film itself. End Spoiler.
Scott is a good director and captures things well through the lens, the cinematography is nice, and the acting, outside of Diaz, is at a respectable level. However, there are things that just don’t work here, mostly the dialogue and the way the story was structured. 2 out of 5.