The Counselor screened after WW press deadlines. It's recommended only for those who wish to see Cameron Diaz wearing a hooded jacket that makes her look like vaguely an Ewok.
Critic's Grade: D+
So far as I can tell, The Counselor
has one primary lesson to teach viewers: Drug trafficking is bad. Real bad. Unless, of course, you’re an exotic dancer-turned-heartless villain with cheetah print tattoos down your back and your fingernails painted silver. Then you’re in the clear.
The Counselor, directed by Ridley Scott and written by Cormac McCarthy (it’s the author’s first original screenplay), is an unmitigated mess. It’s a cautionary tale about drug trafficking and reckless romance, set on the U.S.-Mexico border, but it’s so full of faux-poetic mumbo-jumbo and so choppily assembled that the result is just frustrating and dumb. The titular character, played by Michael Fassbender, is an unnamed lawyer who has gotten himself into some sort of mess involving a martini-guzzling, unhinged client (Javier Bardem, his hair looking like he stuck his finger in an electric socket) and a cowboy hat-wearing middleman (Brad Pitt). As it becomes clear things are going to unravel for Fassbender, Pitt turns to him: “Counselor, I don’t know what you should do, but it’s out of your hands,” he says.
The film, likewise, spirals out of Scott’s hands, lurching between disconnected vignettes and gruesome acts of violence. We get some glimpses into the ludicrously moneyed world these characters occupy, a place where cheetahs wearing rhinestone collars sit both poolside and piano-side. It’s a world of Bentleys, diamonds and snakeskin boots, riches that Scott ogles in artless close-ups. It’s also an oversexed world, which is where that woman with the cheetah-print tattoos enters. She’s played by Cameron Diaz, in a stiff and affected performance. “I think truth has no temperature,” she intones, her voice husky. Later, her accent swings to something foreign and impossible-to-place. It’s a painfully bad portrayal, so embarrassing it hurts to watch.
“Greed takes you to the edge,” says one character toward the end of the film. “That’s not what greed does. That’s what greed is,” another replies. It’s one of countless tortured lines that strives for lyricism but ends up provoking laughter instead. As with McCarthy’s novels that have been adapted for the screen—The Road and especially No Country for Old Men—The Counselor is peopled with bizarre characters harboring dark motives. This effort, though, could have used some counseling of its own.