Director Ridley Scott is one of the most interesting and legendary directors in film. With blockbusters like Gladiator, Alien, Black Hawk Down, and American Gangster on his resume, it’s hard to argue against his evidential success. Much of the same can be said for author Cormac McCarthy, the eloquently deep writer behind the novels No Country for Old Men and The Road, both of which have been adapted into praised films. Take two of the most intelligent minds in their respective fields, team them up, and on paper you should have a potent recipe for yet another praiseworthy project. The key word there being, “should.” To my disappointment, Scott and McCarthy’s joint effort in The Counselor fell just short of their previous home runs.
The premise of The Counselor is extremely basic. Michael Fassbender (Prometheus) plays a lawyer who is content living his life simply with his fiancée, Laura (Penelope Cruz). He attends a party at the penthouse of the lavish-living, happy-go-lucky Reiner (Javier Bardem) and his girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz), where Reiner tells the counselor that he is not properly using his position of power as effectively as he could be.
Moving forward and thinking about how he can take advantage of his job, the counselor contacts a business associate, Westray (Brad Pitt), and the two plot a drug deal that will yield them a 400 percent return on investment. Before the deal is set in stone, Westray expresses the possibility of extreme danger to the counselor, warning him that the cartel is savage and ruthless, especially when it comes to lawyers.
Before he can think twice, the counselor finds himself neck-deep in shark-infested waters (figuratively speaking) when he is asked by a client to bail her son known as, “The Green Hornet,” out of jail. He does so, only to find out days later that the kid is a high-ranking member of the cartel and is involved in the drug deal with him and Westray. This would make no difference if the kid wasn’t decapitated by hit men hired by Malkina behind everyone’s back. The cartel links the counselor to bailing the boy out of prison and assumes that he is also behind his murder in an attempt to make off with the drugs.
I don’t want to confuse anyone. The plot of the movie laid out before you probably sounds pretty awesome, kind of like Savages mixed with a little bit of Blow. However, let me be the first to warn that this movie is not for those with short attention spans. A vast majority of it (around 80 percent) is dialogue. Now, that’s not incredibly surprising seeing as it is written by McCarthy, but it does work in slight detriment to the film as a whole. The script is so rich and deep in conversation between its exquisite characters that it almost makes you wish it were a book so that you could re-read passages that are confusing.
Having said that, I can already safely say it will take at least one or two more viewings for me to be able to fully understand and appreciate the anecdotes and lessons those surrounding him tell the counselor. There isn’t nearly as much action as I anticipated, and it gets off to a pretty slow start. Don’t get me wrong, the dialogue is extremely thought-provoking if you can keep up, but it’s certainly a make-or-break for many moviegoers.
One of the only bright sides of this film is the cast. Almost all of them have played a role in a Scott or McCarthy movie: Fassbender was the android David in Prometheus (Scott), Penelope Cruz appeared in McCarthy’s adaptation of All the Pretty Horses, Javier Bardem is the villainous hit man Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men (McCarthy), and Brad Pitt plays a similar character to his role here in Thelma & Louise (Scott). Each actor brings an electric amount of personality to his or her respective character, and none are to be forgotten. Despite Cameron Diaz not being involved with any prior films, she was my favorite performance of the bunch. Between her and Bardem there’s plenty of deceit, power, sex and mystery that will keep attentive listeners completely engaged in their colorful dialogue.
All in all, this movie is a toss-up. If you can lose yourself in the endlessly deep dialogue that drives the majority of the film, then you will be heavily rewarded with a pretty intense plot. On the other hand, if you have a short attention span and can’t go very long without action or comedic relief, you will find no salvation here. Scott and McCarthy definitely had potential for a much stronger collaboration, but hopefully this somewhat of a dud won’t squander any future projects the two are planning.