The Counsellor
dir Ridley Scott
scr Cormac McCarthy
prd Paula Mae Schwartz, Steve Schwartz, Ridley Scott, Nick Wechsler
with Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Rosie Perez, Sam Spruell, Bruno Ganz, Toby Kebbell, Ruben Blades, Edgar Ramirez, Goran Visnjic
release US 25.Oct.13, UK 15.Nov.13
13/US Fox 1h57
The Counsellor
Let's drink to that: Fassbender and Bardem

cruz diaz pitt
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Counsellor Something went wrong with this film between the script and the final edit, as what should be a compelling dramatic thriller fails to generate any interest. This is a slickly well-made movie with an A-list cast at the top of their game, and yet the dialog sounds like dialog rather than speech. And there's never enough detail to draw us in.

On the border between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, a high-priced lawyer (Fassbender) simply known as Counsellor has found his dream woman in Laura (Cruz). But that isn't enough, so he enters into a deal with Reiner (Bardem) to open a nightclub while simultaneously organising a major cocaine shipment with Westray (Pitt). When the drugs are hijacked, his whole life begins to collapse around him, dragging Laura and Reiner into the mess, as well as Reiner's shark-like girlfriend Malkina (Diaz). Is it possible for anyone to get out of this alive?

The overwritten script is packed with elaborate monologs that let us know exactly what's coming later, which means that the opportunity for horror breaks too early. We also can't help but agree with the kingpin (Blades) when he gently berates the counsellor about how actions have consequences. Although we also got that point much earlier, so we only have sympathy for Laura and possibly Reiner.

None of this is the actors' fault. Each brings out a terrific range of greed and regret tinged with cocky humour and darker emotion. Fassbender and Cruz have the strongest scenes, while Diaz and Bardem are enjoyable in scene-chewing roles. But no one is defined. Just what kind of lawyer is this? We only see him doing court-ordered work, but he drives a fleet of pricey cars and spends millions on an engagement ring. And just what are Reiner, Malkina and Westray up to?

Director Scott never tells anything that might let us identify with them; they remain shallow cyphers who only occasionally offer a glimpse of their true colours. And the plot isn't much more concrete, forcing us to grasp at tiny morsels of information amid painfully cool set-pieces that usually climax with something brutally nasty. Although there is one hilarious sex-charged flashback involving Bardem, Diaz and a Ferrari that will forever make it impossible to look at a catfish.

cert 18 themes, language, violence, sexuality 7.Nov.13

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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall