LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- THV 11 Film Critic reviews The Counselor starring Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, and Penelope Cruz and directed by Ridley Scott from a script by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Cormac McCarthy.
I did not like The Counselor. It has all the ingredients of something I should like in director Ridley Scott, a cast consisting of Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, and Penelope Cruz, and a script written by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Cormac McCarthy. It has a story that sounds captivating and suspenseful: a lawyer gets in over his head when a drug deal goes bad. Anyone who has ever cooked a meal will tell you, sometimes things seem like they would taste good together, but they don't. Here's why:
1) The dialogue didn't flow naturally. That's not a knock on the delivery of the cast who did a fine job, especially Michael Fassbender and Javier Bardem. It's a statement on the words they were saying. It felt like I was watching someone read a book, it may have been a good book but just not what I was expecting in a movie.
2) I didn't understand the motivations of the main character, played by Michael Fassbender. He seems to be a successful lawyer with a nice car, nice house, and the ability to buy Penelope Cruz a 3-carat diamond ring. The only reason he gives for getting into the shady business of drug smuggling is "my back's against the wall". From what? Is his lifestyle a façade? Is his Bentley about to get repossessed? His home foreclosed on? Does he owe some money to a loan shark? The motivations of the character are not clear and it makes me not care what may happen to him.
3) The motivations of the bad guy are not clear. Greed? Revenge? You don't find out who the bad guy really is until the end. Okay, that's not true. If you pay attention, you can figure it out pretty quick but the reasoning behind it doesn't make any sense.
4) The audience is lectured to at least three times during the film. It was the same lecture every time. A lecture about getting involved in something over your head that takes you down a road in which you will have to make some questionable moral decisions, if you even get to make a decision. Even when things are falling apart for our Fassbender, we still get an "I told you so" lecture.
5) The watch factor. A truly captivating movie will keep the following conversation from happening in your head:
"What time did the movie actually start after the previews?"
"I don't know, 10:30, I think."
"How long did they say it was?"
"I think it was about an hour and a half, either that or an hour and fifty-six minutes."
"What time is it now? Cover up your phone so you can look and no one will see"
"Please don't let it be an hour and fifty-six minutes."
Here are a few good points:
1) Michael Fassbender is a captivating actor to watch. I don't quite buy his portrayal as a resident of El Paso, TX but he still commands the screen and pulls off the emotions that you'd expect of a man who initially has everything, feels it falling apart around him, and inevitably loses himself in all of it.
2) Javier Bardem like Fassbender also commands the screen. His character is the comedic relief of the film without the obvious slapstick pitfalls of that role. There's one scene in particular that he describes in such a way that you can't tell if he's amazed by what he's seen or if he is in shock from it.
3) Ridley Scott is very good at telling this tale, even though it brings nothing new to the "drug deal gone wrong" genre it's filled with character subtleties and foreshadowing of events that are yet to come.
My advice on The Counselor: catch a matinee or just wait for it to be on-demand, online, or on DVD.