Making a gormet apple pie isn't easy; we all know that. But if I gave you freshly picked apples, all the organic ingredients to make a stunning crust, instructions to make it and Chef Gordon Ramsey to keep you on track by calling you a "stupid donkey," you'd think it would be pretty hard to screw up, right? The Counselor is a movie starring Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class, Inglorious Basterds), Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, Skyfall), Pennolpe Cruz, Cameron Diaz, and Brad Pitt in a movie written by novelist Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men) and directed by Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Alien), you'd think THAT would be an apple pie pretty hard to screw up, right? Somehow it happened.
The Counselor is a film about a very successful lawyer who gets involved with some shady ex-client friends who decide to fund a large drug shipment from Mexico to Chicago. Somewhere along the way things go horribly, horribly wrong...in both plot and execution of the plot. It's the kind of story that I usually really enjoy. It has violence, smart dialogue, interesting characters, sex and plot twists. From a very early point in the film, however, you can feel that something is off with this. The pieces aren't lining up and you find yourself straining to keep up with the story and figure out what everyone's basic motives are. I'm not one that lacks the skills to keep up with a complex plot but this was beyond complex; it was sloppy.
Some of that might be because this is McCarthy's first attempt at writing a screenplay and he's basing it off of his own novel. If No Country for Old Men taught us anything it's that an adaptation of his book by a skilled screenplay writer can create a great movie. That was one of the greatest movies of the decade. This will be remembered as almost the exact opposite. Of course there are worse films out there but this was like a juiced baseball player who always hits home runs stepping up the plate and striking out.
It's a real shame because there are moments of this that really shine. Fassbender conveys absolute dread and shamful anguish. Bardem is a wonderfully charismatic douchebag that provides much of the comedic relief. Even Cruz and Diaz are fun to watch as polar opposites of the cliche female character spectrum. There's just something about the movie as a whole that's a complete dud. Even as things are happening that make you feel like the film is getting back on track, there's a scene that's shoved into the story that doesn't make sense and it makes you spend the next fifteen minutes thinking, "what the hell was that about?"
It's true that I might being too hard on The Conselor. For it to share the same Gavin Grade as We're the Millers seems unfair because it's more noble than a shallow comedic snorefest. But it's the fact that it has as A-list a cast directed by as A-list a director as Hollywood allows that makes the missteps, bad choices, and sloppiness unforgivable. If you pay to see anything from any one of these people, you should expect quality at this point in their careers and instead, with this, you see some of the worst.
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