TWITTER: Does Ridley Scott's return to crime thrillers pay off in The Counselor? Not so much.
The well-cast but poorly-edited The Counselor takes too long to suck us in.
Do you have control of your life once the 'big decision' is made? Job? Marriage? Family? How about a Juarez drug deal gone horribly wrong? That's the premise of The Counselor, a well-cast but horribly-edited film that stunningly wastes all of its assets, making us realize that bad decisions do have consequences. A lawyer (Michael Fassbender) on the financial ropes enters the drug trafficking world, only to see his 'investment' stolen by the scheming girlfriend of his naive partner Reiner (Javier Bardem). Malkina (Cameron Diaz) loves the fine life, climbing the ladder by screwing and (probably) killing her way through men and their money. She's the quintessential 'damaged goods' girl, sexually available, and displaying her exhibitionist style without abandon. Although Counselor's life appears to be more stable with his engagement to Laura (Penelope Cruz), all is not well - his deep financial troubles have forced him to hatch a 'zero-risk' plan to ship drugs across the border, with the help of the smooth-talking Westray (Brad Pitt). The drugs are stolen, then stolen again, leaving Counselor and his partners with more than debt on their hands. As the wire begins to tighten around their necks - one who literally experiences this ugly fate in Act 3 - Counselor must protect Laura while cleaning up a mess he can't begin to understand.
Watching The Counselor is almost like walking in on a conversation that's half way through - we never know the reasons for Counselor's financial issues, and the first half of the film is spent in needless conversations from our dealers, handlers, and the thieves, along with set ups that don't deliver on any level or are jettisoned once the real tension gets going. Director Ridley Scott has dropped the Science Fiction genre in favor of a project that looks and sounds good, but is devoid of a proper edit. Too many scenes in The Counselor could have been trimmed or entirely left out, which would have left a tighter and more effective piece. Instead, we get rolls of dialogue about choices and fate and gynecology, delivered quite well by Pitt, Bardem, and a nice cameo in Act 3. By that time, we're not as invested as we could have been, and No Country for Old Men Writer Cornac McCarthy's sometimes brilliant takes drift away into a menagerie of ultra-violence and dumped bodies. Fassbender's visceral reaction at the end of the film could have been Oscar-worthy material, but our boredom left us to wonder what could have been. For a creative team of this caliber to miss the boat so completely just goes to show how being passionate on a project can also be your undoing.
The Counselor drones on with too much of everything except what it really needed: a connected and powerful cautionary tale about drug dealing, sex, and the completely untrustworthy people who probably inhibit the trade. Instead, we emerge from the theater glad to say we saw it, but are totally unable to recommend it. The Counselor is rated R for everything in the book and has a runtime of 117 minutes.
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