The Counselor *1/2

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“The Counselor” marks the first ever screenplay written by Cormac McCarthy, the author of such books as “Blood Meridian” and “No Country For Old Men”. On the basis of this film I might suggest he stick to writing books and leave the screenplays to established pros. This is a sloppy, unfocused mess of a movie and it is all because of the weak script. Director Ridley Scott does what he can but it is a doomed endeavour. The actors each put on admirable performances but they are not given much to work with.

The story follows a lawyer played by Michael Fassbender, who is some how in way over his head financially. He enters in to a deal with a drug cartel, brokered by some shady clients. The details of the deal are never made clear. From what I can gather he basically puts up some cash and waits for the drugs to be delivered than receives a big return on his investment.

Javier Bardem plays Reiner, a business man by day and a drug kingpin by night. He warns the Counselor of some unspeakable violence that could happen if this deal goes sideways. His girlfriend is Malkina played by Cameron Diaz. She seems to be running more than she leads on. Brad Pitt also shows up as sort of middle man. He also cryptically warns Fassbender of the lengths the cartels will go if they screw them over.

Penelope Cruz plays Fassbender’s unsuspecting girlfriend who eventually becomes his fiancĂ©.

All of these actors are quite good with the exception of Diaz. She seems to be out of her acting range. Instead of menacing she comes across as simply over the top. Sadly she will be remembered from this movie for a truly uncomfortable scene where she has sex with a wind shield.

Now I don’t think I am ruining anything when I say that things go horribly wrong and everyone ends up scrambling for options. The sad part is that there are no surprises or interesting plot twists. When the deal goes bad, the cartel simply hunts people down and kills them. It is unbelievably predictable and cliched. What makes it worse is that we get no details on the cartel’s operations or plans. They are always an unseen evil that seems to operate in the shadows.

Ridley Scott brings his usual visual flair and tries to get the best performances he can out of his actors but there really is nothing for him to sink his teeth in to. The screenplay is terribly straightforward. Scenes go on longer than they should. Conversations are vague and pointless. This is like a rough outline for a better movie.

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