Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Counselor

By Sati. Wednesday, December 11, 2013 , , , , , , ,

Imagine that you are a cook. In fact, you are an excellent cook. You've spent the whole day cooking delicious meals of many different cuisines. By the end of the day you are left with various ingredients. They are all superb individually, but they don't make sense together. You could come up with some new sort of meal and make it delicious, you have a talent for it. But instead you go the easy way - you put them in a shit-stainted shaky bowl, you say it's great and you serve it to your customers.

Cormack McCarthy is like such a cook. He knows how to compose things, he had the right ingredients. But instead of thinking of a whole product first, he decided to throw in some events and characters he probably thought of additionally while writing his previous stories and he decided to sell them as another product. Wrapped in shitty, plot hole filled story which is this movie's script. And that script is the movie's ultimate downfall. Ridley Scott is a skilled director and the cast is filled with talented actors. But when the story is boring and ridiculous, there is only so much one can do.
When I read the script a while ago I was hoping many sequences will be cut, many dialogue heavy scenes will be rewritten. Unfortunately, it didn't happen. While there are changes to the script they are not the right ones - they cut out scenes that worked, shortened the scenes that didn't need to be shortened and left the worst, most self-indulgently pretentious moments in.

The plot of the film is not complicated - it's just so half-assed you think it's complicated. You are watching this and thinking - surely there needs to be more to this, right? No.  In a nutshell a wealthy Counselor (Michael Fassbender, trying his best and even his best isn't good enough) becomes an investor in a drug deal. The drug deal goes wrong. The Counselor gets blamed for it. The shitstorm occurs.
The fact the Counselor even gets involved is one of the many asinine things in this story. His partners are Reiner and Westray - two guys who drive fancy cars, have tons of cash, clubs, chicks, you name it - they have it. Why would they even need a partner? They wouldn't, case closed.

And let's talk about this Counselor. He is a lawyer - which means he finished law school and passed the bar. I'm 3/4 into that journey and I already started thinking of death not as of a terrible thing but as of sweet release. And this guy is behind that awful phase and making money. He is young, good looking and he is banging Penelope Cruz. He has enough money to afford outrageously fancy engagement ring for her. And he wants more. Jesus Christ, just what kind of an idiot is he?
His character is one of the biggest issues - you don't necessarily have to like the protagonist but you should at least find him interesting. Not only is this guy not interesting - he is impossibly stupid. He is getting warnings from people not to get involved in drug business left and right and he still does this. Then - a surprise to no one - things go wrong.

What makes matters worse is that literally everyone - even the imprisoned mother of one of the many, many side characters - is more interesting than this guy. So essentially the guy you are supposed to root for at least a little becomes a plot device designed to get other people to act and talk cool when he is around.
Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt are rightfully being singled out in most reviews as two actors who make this movie watchable. Bardem sports another crazy hairstyle and has fun with his role - his lively and colorful character is interesting from the very first scene. His expression during already infamous sex scene on the hood of the car is one of the very few laugh out loud moments which the film desperately needed. When you're not laughing or feeling tension, in much too few scenes, you are just watching this completely numb.

Pitt on the other hand completely steals the show as Westray - an all around odd but mysterious guy, who is both cool and a little bit disturbed. Him and Bardem seem to be the only ones understanding this script will be good for them and bad for everyone else - since they are the only ones actually looking comfortable with their roles.
Pitt makes his character the only layered one in this whole movie and it is entirely thanks to him. He gives his character a weird trait - maniacal laughter he uses in the most inappropriate moments. His Westray is far gone - both in drug deals and the reality of the world, yet his fun loving nature prevents him from getting away. When he finally does, it's much too late.

I was impressed by Penelope Cruz who pulls off innocent and sweet Laura well. You should know however that she has even less scenes than in the trailer. That's right. Less than 10 minutes of screentime total. And her scenes don't really add much, although out of everyone it's easiest to feel bad for her naive character.
The worst performance in the movie is hands down, Cameron Diaz's Malkina. It takes talent to wreck an interesting character like that to such extent. I was always undecided when it comes to Diaz and her acting talent - she was fairly good in Vanilla Sky, but here in The Counselor as far as I can tell she has buried herself in the mud that will probably get her to do TV series soon because no one will want to hire her in serious films. Her performance is so bad it sinks whatever promise was left in this movie.

Diaz doesn't try to understand her character. She doesn't get her character. She plays the part with the smug expression on her face that instead of saying 'I'm badass Malkina' says 'I'm Cameron Diaz and I get to do outrageous things in the movie". The fact she is miscast is one thing, the fact she doesn't even try to do something interesting with the role is another. The film also has a number of cameos who are as useless as they are forgettable. Natalie Dormer makes an impression as the associate of Malkina - in fact her 2 minutes in this movie have more fire in them than all of the fancy A listers present here. But with that script and that story, there is only so much anyone can do.

There is a lot going on in here that will get people talking - Bolito scene, which was pretty great, sex scene with the car, which was fairly forgettable other than Bardem's expression, the opening scene with Cruz and Fassbemder, which is awful beyond belief. Honestly, maybe old men shouldn't write sex talk? McCormac's writing was so bad here it literally ruined a scene where Fassbender eats his girlfriend out. I didn't think ruining such a scene was even possible.
As much as I like Ridley Scott, I'm very glad this movie flopped. He needs a swift kick in the ass. I'm sick and tired of him releasing a movie and then saying 'oh, by the way, director's cut is gonna be much better'. What the hell. I want to to see a movie, not a freaking preview for Director's Cut. You can't keep releasing something you don't really like and tell people to wait several years so they can spend even more money and see the intended version. Eva Green should really sue Scott for how he butchered her work in theatrical version of Kingdom of Heaven.

The film has several things that worked - the score is excellent and Pitt performance almost makes the movie worth seeing. Unfortunately all in all it's a waste of talent and everyone's time.

(The Counselor, dir. Ridley Scott, 2013, 117 min.)
RELATED POSTS: 

34 comments:

  1. Excellent review! You summed it up perfectly. Diaz really did drop the ball with Malkina. Even though I didn't read the script, I can tell that Malkina was written far juicier than Diaz played her. She should've switched spots with Cruz or Dormer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Dormer, even if she is even more delicate looking than Diaz would be so much better. She is crazy talented.

      Delete
  2. Welp, I don't know what to do. I dug your review, and I trust you, but I loves me some Pitt and Bardem. Even if this movie meanders and has a shitty performance from usually reliable Fassbender ...I think I'm still in.

    I do dread an awful Diaz, though. I like her, but I can already see her sucking in this one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You may enjoy how awful this movie is. Unfortunately, it's also really boring and that's impossible to enjoy :/

      Delete
  3. Good review Sati. The cast makes this work more so than it should have. Except for Diaz, who just comes off like she's way, way out-of-her-element to be even included in the same film as these professionals.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Should I watch it in the cinema or wait for it? I feel like I should wait... PS: Love your new sidebar top image.. cool!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't pay money for this one :)

      Thank you!

      Delete
  5. Oh you finally post your review! Funny you should mention about the script, i read another blogger review that said some of the lines that did not made the cut actually was a bit more interesting. Damn now i feel i need to read the script too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The script was more interesting, even if only marginally. For example confession scene was much better. In the movie it was pretty much useless.

      Delete
  6. Cool review! I haven't seen The Counselor, but my interest completely waned when you mentioned that he gets warnings left and right about how dangerous drug lords are and then does it anyways. I can support characters who get into deathly businesses if it's for a particular cause or drive; but not for "just 'cause I feel like it?...Maybe?...." Don't know if I'll check this out for curiosity, but possibly not. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! The main character is really stupid and not interesting at all.

      Delete
  7. Fantastic review. I was really looking forward to this, and with that cast who wouldn't be, but then the reviews started rolling in and my enthusiasm for it just disappeared. Part of me still wants to see it but it'll definitely be a rental if anything. Sounds like a real waste.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Yeah rental is a way to go. Fast forward button can be useful here :)

      Delete
  8. Great review Sati I love your use of images in the review. It's a shame to hear that a great director and a great cast are wasted in this film.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Yeah, they really dropped the ball on this one.

      Delete
  9. Great review. Not going to expect much of it when I see it on DVD, but it sucks that Diaz ruined the character. She was the one that sounded most interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Diaz really had a shot here and she blew it completely.

      Delete
  10. Ooof, I definitely will be skipping this one. "...he is impossibly stupid" Ahah you hated him so much you didn't even bother to spell his name properly. We should just call him Fasbemder here :D It's too bad given the talent involved. I like Scott too but you're right, sometimes even great talents need a kick in the behind, I mean NOBODY is invincible! Seems that McCarthy should stick to writing novels, eh?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He definitely should, he has no business writing scripts, not that I think anyone will be interested in his scripts after this disaster :)

      Delete
  11. The fact that Scott has these claims that he's going to have another version yet still has final cut. I'm sick of this shit. For me, there should only be one definitive version of a film. I probably will see this on TV and if it is bad. Then I think it's time for all of us to end part ways with Ridley Scott.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly. I mean one doesn't even know what version of Blade Runner to watch now, there are so many. It's insane.

      Delete
  12. Great review Sati. I think I'll skip this one. Like you I'm getting a little tired of Ridley Scott's serious lack of character development. It's become a signature and it sucks. Develop those characters or don't do the film. Forget the director's cut! I loved 'Prometheus,' but there were so many things about that movie that ticked me off, that were then answered in the director's cut OR ELSEWHERE. Whatever Ridley!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Yeah, it's really a big waste of time. I really like Prometheus but it should have been longer - the deleted scenes were fantastic.

      Delete
  13. This is so frustrating. This film was high on my list but I just skipped it altogether after hearing how bad it is. That much talent wasted. What a shame.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's really a big shame. I feel so bad for all those talented actors who wasted their time.

      Delete
  14. Wonderful review! I responded a little more positively to it, but I agree on the film's problems. The cast can't save a bad script, and Diaz, unfortunately, does feel miscast. I also liked Pitt and Bardem, though Bardem is probably my favorite. Either way, it's a forgettable film overall.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! :) Bardem was really good, him and Pitt really were the highlights here. If I were Diaz I'd hide under a rock for a while.

      Delete
  15. Brilliant review Sati. It's saddening to hear so many scornful opinions if the movie but I'm not surprised. I think Ridley Scott has been nosediving for quite a while now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Yeah, Scott really needs to take a look at what he has become.

      Delete
  16. How did I miss this review? Haha
    Anyway, I don't think The Counselor is as bad as what everyone says (I'm sure you'll disagree), there's a lot of good ideas, its just so muddled up and overcooked. Not to mention the character of The Counselor is boring as fuck.

    Pitt just makes my lineup, with Bardem making my top ten.

    As for Diaz, she makes my top ten, but I'd be surprised if she stays there. I definitely liked her a lot more than you, but she could go from good to bad within a matter of seconds. For example, her phone call scene was absolutely awful "I'm in...that's right, I always knew where the truck was going...thats right" or whatever it was. I think she nailed her last scene (wasn't a fan of her delivery of "And the slaughter to come..is probably beyond our imagining"), I much preferred how she said it in the trailer. Why didn't they use that one instead?!

    Sorta OT - What did you think of her in Being John Malkovich?

    It sucks really, because we were both so excited for this film. It could have been so good...
    Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I post too much shit :P

      Yeah he is boring as fuck indeed. I think it's the first time I did not desire Fassy - THAT's how boring he was.

      I think Pitt makes my line-up at this point of my movie watching.

      I don't know, it's a clusterfuck with Ridley - look at Prometheus trailer - half of the stuff there wasn't used in final cut. I'm so annoyed with all this teasing - he should just make the movie he wants to make and fight as hell to release it in theaters, not make everyone wait for director's cut.

      I don't remember her well in this movie, I saw it years ago but I think she was good there, my fav work of hers is in Bad Teacher.

      Delete