Featuring an all-star cast of irreproachable actors … and also Cameron Diaz, The Counselor had Ridley Scott at the helm and an original screenplay written by Cormac McCarthy. All the ingredients in this cinematic recipe are independently delicious; so why does the final meal taste like week-old dumpster pizza with extra anchovies?
From the first sequence, which features Michael Fassbender’s nameless character romancing his fiancée Laura (Penélope Cruz) with what sounds like plagiarized tween sexts, nothing works. Nothing. As in not one single thing is enjoyable. The plot is intentionally vague to the point of absolute incomprehensibility. Fassbender’s character is a lawyer who is “in” on an illegal deal, the parameters of which are never explained. He has to go through shady characters played by Brad Pitt and Javier Bardem for reasons that make absolutely no sense.
There’s something about stolen drugs; but then the stolen drugs are stolen back or stolen by a third party or something. Basically, everyone runs around for the first hour and a half foreshadowing the last 20 minutes with dialogue that alternates between sounding like a pseudo-intellectual with a thesaurus and 50 Shades of Grey fan fiction.
And then Cameron Diaz has sex with a car window.
That’s a real thing. They show it and everything. That sequence is so unintentionally hilarious, so mind-numbingly weird and gross, that Gigli’s “gobble, gobble” has forever been replaced by Bardem making the sound of a suckerfish for rea sons you will never be able to forget.
What in the train wreck was everyone thinking? The script is so foul and misogynistic that there are at least a dozen “I’ll tell you about women” moments, the worst of which may be “You can do anything you want to a woman except bore her.” Huzzah! That doesn’t sound like an endorsement of rape culture at all, thanks Cormac!
The Counselor almost works as a comedy. It’s certainly the funniest thing Diaz has done since There’s Something About Mary, even if she isn’t aware of that. Oh, almost forgot: There are cheetahs in this movie. For no reason or anything. Just every so often someone will be playing piano and there’s a domesticated cheetah just chilling next to them. Oh, and the movie takes place in Texas and Mexico.
It’s possible that McCarthy just totally botched his first original attempt at screenwriting. It’s also possible that he needs a translator, someone who is capable of turning his brilliant novels into palatable cinema. This is going to go down as one of those movies that had absolutely no reason to be anything but great and is somehow one of the year’s worst films. And if you think that’s exaggerating, consider that by the end of the film, it is absolutely and completely unclear what just happened. The Counselor is a horrifying reminder that even the best of us are capable of bad, bad things.
— This review first appeared in The Reader of Omaha, Neb.
Rating: half of a star out of four stars