North Texas Daily

Review: “The Counselor”

Review: “The Counselor”

Review: “The Counselor”
October 24
16:00 2013

Preston Barta / Film Critic

Rating: 2.5/5

In early 2012, it was announced that Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Cormac McCarthy, (“No Country for Old Men”) had written his first original screenplay. This provoked huge excitement, an on-the-spot movie deal and the appointment of the esteemed Ridley Scott (“Gladiator,” 2000) to the director’s chair behind a smolderingly hot cast. Right out of the gates, this was a recipe for Oscar voters to eat up in a heartbeat and ask for seconds. Unfortunately, that is not the case, as “The Counselor” is a sickening waste of time of the fine talent behind and in front of the camera.

Michael Fassbender, of last year’s “Prometheus,” plays the titular role of the Counselor, a man who is so seduced by his desire to get rich and impress his fiancée, Laura (Penélope Cruz), that he becomes involved in a murky cocaine venture with Mexican drug lords. But as the action crosses the Mexico-Texas border, things quickly become darker, more violent and sexually disturbing than the Counselor and the audience could ever imagine.

Have you ever watched a movie that was so dark, disturbing and gritty that you wanted to shower and vomit afterwards? If you saw Michael Bay’s disastrous “Pain and Gain” or Nicolas Winding Refn’s hugely disappointing “Only God Forgives” this year, you might know the feeling. “The Counselor” strikes a similar score, ending up simultaneously unlikable and not gratifying. It’s a far cry from our expectations, given that McCarthy is considered one of the world’s greatest living authors.

If you are familiar with the works of McCarthy, you know that he fills his books with beautiful language and eloquent words, especially when it comes to describing the scenery. The flowery prose belongs on the page, however; it’s quite a stretch to believe that absolutely everybody in “The Counselor” speaks in philosophy and metaphors.

Story-wise, McCarthy has covered this territory countless times: drugs, violence and ethical quandaries. The plot’s only claim to originality is an unexpected shift of focus from what started as, “Breaking Bad: The Movie,” to a completely different kind of crime with only the most cursory link to drugs. As it turns out, the Counselor is little more than a vehicle to get us to the second half of the story, where the drama falls flat. There simply isn’t enough time to make us care about any of the characters, especially not him.

Despite the passion that the actors bring to their roles, there really is not much to enjoy about “The Counselor.” It is hardly fun at all. Perhaps it’s best if filmgoers counsel against it and see Fassbender’s other film that is out this weekend, “12 Years a Slave.”

“The Counselor” opens in theaters nationwide tonight at 10 p.m.

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