Cary, NC — With talent like Michael Fassbender (Shame, X-Men: First Class, Prometheus), Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt and director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Blade Runner, Alien) you would think The Counselor would easily rate as a first class thriller. Somehow though, the end result is something quite bizarre and ultimately unsatisfying.
Scott Doesn’t Nail It
I’m honestly a little baffled by The Counselor. It’s not exactly a terrible movie. It’s my opinion that if you directed the films Alien and Blade Runner, you are physically incapable of making a terrible movie.
However, that doesn’t mean you can nail it every time, either.
And that’s what happened to director Ridley Scott. The plot of the film is actually a fairly simple one. The title character, known only as The Counselor throughout the entire movie, gets in over his head in a drug deal gone bad.
There are moments in The Counselor that are unbelievably good. These include a few great monologues written by author Cormac McCarthy ( The Road, No Country for Old Men). They are delivered beautifully by some carefully chosen character actors.
The problem is that more often than not, the moments following those wonderful scenes are somehow quite bad and bizarre, in large part thanks to some seriously poor casting choices that almost undermine the other/better actors on screen.
Pitt and Bardem Are Great.
When this cast is good, they are really good.
Brad Pitt especially gets a chance to shine with no more than 15 minutes of screen time spread out over the movie. Pitt is one of the few movie stars who is probably a better character actor than leading man. That’s a compliment, by the way. He seems to relish the chance to speak the words author McCarthy gives him.
Equally as intriguing is Javier Bardem as the extravagant friend of the title character played by Fassbender. Bardem helps Fassbender get involved with the doomed drug deal. Bardem seems destined to play extremely weird and creepy villains. He was amazing in Skyfall and No Country for Old Men. Like Pitt, his screen time is limited, but he makes every second count, particularly in a scene with Cameron Diaz that honestly has to be seen to be believed.
As good as Pitt and Bardem are though, it’s the casting of Cameron Diaz in a rather crucial role that really drags the film down.
Diaz can be a pretty decent dramatic actress in the right role, but here she just can’t bring any kind of believable menace that the part requires. The results are often close to laughable.
I can’t say much more for Michael Fassbender, though I think that has more to do with the script than his acting ability. His character makes bad choices from the get go, and it’s really hard to find any real sympathy for him.
Counselor Not Terrible, But Not Great Either
The Counselor isn’t a bad movie. There are some truly great moments and even better performances.
But there are too many moments that are just as weird and bad. I can honestly say that I was never bored watching The Counselor, but I also can’t bring myself to recommend it to be seen in theaters. So if you’re really aching for a trip to the theater, catch up on Captain Phillips or Gravity instead.
Review by Jordan Hunt for CaryCitizen. Read more CaryCitizen Movie Reviews. Stay tuned for his “Movies You May Have Missed in 2013” and in January the Oscar Picks.