Manolith Movies: The Counselor

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Ridley Scott’s The Counselor is one the most disappointing films of 2013. The acting is ridiculous, and the dialogue of Cormac McCarthy’s script is simply overbearing. It’s hard not bust out laughter when a character says “The truth has no temperature.”

The Counselor begins with the titular character (Michael Fassbender) rolling around in bed with his girlfriend, Laura (Penelope Cruz). The early dialogue of the film shows potential as Laura is portrayed as a slightly innocent woman, contrasted by the more direct Fassbender, whose name we never learn. Cruz is the lone bright spot of the film, and her sweet disposition is a nice break from her usual sex-bomb characters.

The Counselor takes off to Amsterdam to buy a ring for his girl, and upon his return the dapper lawyer gets involved with a drug smuggling scheme, which is never quite explained. The outlandish drug connection Reiner (Javier Bardem) is introduced along with his even more over-the-top girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz). Reiner is the classic high-roller drug dealer who always has a smile on face and poses thought-provoking questions with every conversation. Malkina is even more annoying and so is her brutal dialogue.

The Counselor is riddled with unintentional laugh-out-loud scenes, specifally one in which Malkina talks to Laura about her sex life. The leopard-tattooed Malkina never speaks like a normal person, and needs to deliver a profound statement with every conversation. Between the dialogue of Reiner and Malkina, one may be inspired to create a drinking game for each time one of the characters tilts their head and delivers a soliloquy on the brutalities of life.

Then there is Brad Pitt’s middleman Westray, whom is everything you might expect from the actor. Westray is a bit more level-headed than Reiner and Malkina, but weakened by McCarthy’s dialogue. Pitt has the usual cool look – long hair, sunglasses at all times and the confident walk with the mouth open. Why can’t a Brad Pitt character walk with his mouth closed? It’s as if Pitt is constantly surprised by the surrounding world. It’s all a bit too much, however Westray is more likeable than the others.

Michael Fassbender’s Counselor is the most intriguing character in the film because it’s not apparent why he makes his awful decisions. The supporting characters always express that he is in way over his head, and Counselor slowly begins to realize that his actions have consequences. It’s difficult to root for the character, but we don’t learn enough about him to shake a finger. Fassbender has several scenes where he gets to display his acting chops, but also many laughable scenes where it looks like someone put eye drops on his face, and we are supposed to believe that he is devastated (as the aggressive score plays in the background).

Ridley Scott is not to blame for the brutal nature of The Counselor. The structure could be tightened up, and one may be completely disconnected halfway in, however the failure of the film ultimately lies within McCarthy’s script.

The Counselor is definitely not the typical Hollywood film, but the laughable dialogue overrides the subtext. Bright spots? Inventive murdering techniques and windshield sex.

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