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New Release Review - The Counselor

A counselor attempts to make some easy money through a big money drug deal.

Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Bruno Ganz


A counselor (Fassbender), whose name we never learn, uses his contacts in the criminal underworld of the Texas/Mexico border region to set up a drug deal worth $20 million. Despite warnings from Westray (Pitt) about the dangers of becoming involved with Mexican cartels, the counselor goes ahead and puts the deal in motion. When an outside force intervenes and hijacks the drugs, the counselor is held responsible by the cartel.
Few films in 2013 have received such a critical mauling as Ridley Scott's 'The Counselor'. Some reviewers have gone so far as to call it one of the worst movies ever made, which is a gross exaggeration. The film is a notch below mediocre but it's by no means one of the worst films of the year, let alone of all time.
The movie's problems all lie in the script, the first feature screenplay from novelist Cormac McCarthy. The result shows his inexperience, not just in screenwriting but in the world of film in general. Every character interaction plays out like an act in a stage play and barely a moment passes in which some character isn't speaking. The dialogue is some of the worst you'll hear this side of a Guy Ritchie movie, full of pretentious monologues delivered by the various characters Fassbender encounters. 
Most scenes play out something like this:
Random Character in extravagant outfit: "Hey Counselor, have you ever heard of (insert name of obscure poet/philosopher/historical figure)?
Counselor: "No, can't say I have."
Followed by a rambling monologue meant to act as a metaphor intended to illustrate whatever situation the counselor finds himself in at that point.
After the first few scenes like this you'll want to poke your eardrums out. I naively thought this brand of verbal garbage died out in the late nineties but it seems to be making a comeback in recent years.
While I have huge problems with the dialogue, I don't share the criticisms of most reviewers regarding the narrative structure of McCarthy's script. Like John Boorman's 'Point Blank', crucial moments of exposition are left out, allowing the viewer to find their own way into the story, and many scenes feel like they're taking place directly after a scene in which we would have learned a plot detail. It's an approach I've always admired and it's strange how little it's been employed over the years. Unfortunately the story and the characters inhabiting it are tired and cliched, making the film one hell of a chore to sit through.
If you fancy sitting through two hours of endless pretentious dialogue and don't have access to a local fringe theater, 'The Counselor' will satisfy such a desire.
4/10


Eric Hillis

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