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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wordy dialogue silences ‘The Counselor’

    %09Chockstone+Pictures

    Chockstone Pictures

    Everything seems to be in place for a tour de force with “The Counselor,” with a star-studded cast of Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt and Penélope Cruz, Ridley Scott (“Alien,” “Gladiator”) directing and acclaimed American novelist Cormac McCarthy writing the script. What we get is a boring attempt at a thriller whose heavy-handed script completely derails the movie from reaching any measure of its potential.

    The only upside is that Diaz has sex with a Ferrari.

    The movie follows the Counselor — yes, that’s the character’s name, played by Fassbender — who proposes to his girlfriend, Laura (Penélope Cruz). He meets with business associate Westray (Pitt) and soon becomes involved in a drug deal, agreeing to transport the goods from Mexico to Chicago. Reiner (Bardem) and Malkina (Diaz) are, to put it lightly, a truly dysfunctional couple who are friends of the Counselor and also have a stake in the drug deal. Things quickly spiral out of control in a storm of violence, scheming and blood, and the Counselor, a lawyer, finds himself completely out of his element.

    Many aspects of the narrative are transient. Characters come and go, playing a huge or insignificant role before being shown the door. The film bounces sporadically from location to location — from the States to Amsterdam to London to Mexico and probably some other places I missed in the flurry.

    One of the most intriguing things about “The Counselor” was that McCarthy penned the screenplay. His works include the novels “All the Pretty Horses,” “Blood Meridian,” “No Country for Old Men” and “The Road,” most of which were adapted to the screen — and one of which took an Academy Award for Best Picture. I cannot personally attest to the value of the works of Mr. McCarthy, but he is widely regarded as one of the greatest living American novelists. However, his first foray into writing for film proves less than satisfying.

    The characters in “The Counselor” speak in a near indecipherable highfalutin language on topics including sex, power, predator, prey, consequences, the world, diamonds and power. Each character, even a diamond merchant with a whopping one scene, has some metaphorical, existential speech about diamonds and life and God knows what else. The heavy, loaded dialogue comes in a ceaseless barrage that’s hard to keep up with. When Pitt’s character is speaking about snuff films and how the cartel knows no limits in one scene, and then Bardem’s character is speaking on the nature of women as a group in the next scene, it becomes difficult to process.

    Perhaps this is McCarthy stumbling to transition from page to screen. When reading a novel, the reader has endless amounts of time to go back and reread a section that was difficult to understand. With a film, you get one shot.

    The characters, specifically Reiner and Malkina, are intriguing. Reiner has hair almost as loud as his style of clothing, and Malkina oozes sex and speed and cheetah print. The plot picks up pace, tension, excitement and terror and has plenty of shocking moments to make it feel like the movie can salvage itself — and then it ends. Abruptly, without much warning, and without much satisfaction.

    Throughout the movie, the Counselor is constantly asking questions of his crooked peers. Ironically, this lawyer, who is supposed to be the one giving advice, finds himself at a loss. I fear that the audience, like the Counselor, will constantly be asking questions throughout the movie, just trying to get a bearing on anything in this world.

    Grade: C

    Follow Alex Guyton @TDWildcatFilm

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