“The Counselor” wastes its A-list pedigree

0 Submitted by on Fri, 25 October 2013, 08:30

By Sandra Kraisirideja

Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Malkina (Cameron Diaz) are a couple whose relationship is about to undergo seismic changes. Photo: Kerry Brown.

“The Counselor” is not an easy movie to like.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, what with Ridley Scott behind the helm and Cormac McCarthy supplying the script, to a cast featuring Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, and Brad Pitt.

It’s A-list across the board and perfectly packaged for the Academy, but it fails to even be good.

The main characters are unrelatable and unsympathetic. I like movies where there’s somebody to root for, even if that person is “the bad guy.” In “The Counselor,” not even the “bad guys” are likeable.

Fassbender plays an attorney who enters into drug trafficking with disastrous results. Apparently a shipment he helped finance goes missing and he may have inadvertently been the cause of the disappearance. The plot is a patchwork of scenes that the audience is supposed to connect together but it only adds to the confusion.

I hate to say this, but I blame the script, which was written by the respected novelist Cormac McCarthy. His books, “No Country for Old Men” and “The Road’ were both adapted for the screen and critically acclaimed. In fact, “No Country for Old Men” won four Academy Awards including Best Adapted Screenplay.

McCarthy should stick to writing novels and let others adapt them later on. When he writes specifically for the cinema it just doesn’t translate. There are several scenes in “The Counselor” where the characters recite long monologues of complex prose that is utterly confusing.

It could be that previous screenwriters who adapted McCarthy’s prose knew how to illuminate the words on the page by translating the words into dialogue that could be spoken on camera and not feel bogged down.

I will give McCarthy credit for writing one of the most interesting scenes for a movie involving a woman and a car. For anyone who sees “The Counselor,” this scene will be the one most remembered and talked about. Late night hosts are going to have fun with this one. Sadly, there are going to be some women out there who will emulate it as well.

Another bright spot is Bardem, who comes as close as I’ve seen to playing “jolly” in a movie. It’s fun to see him not being frightening and menacing. Likewise, Diaz gets to access her inner vixen and she seems to relish being bad. Costume designer Janty Yates, who won as Oscar for “Gladiator,” selected some excellent pieces for Bardem and Diaz to wear. Who knew drug traffickers loved couture?

Unfortunately, a killer wardrobe isn’t enough to save “The Counselor.”

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