The Counselor Review: “Why is this happening?”

Similar to many, I was very excited to see the new Cormac McCarthy and Ridley Scott thriller, The Counselor.  Unfortunately, after my viewing late last night, I regret the decision my friends and I made to see what felt like a cheap let down in McCarthy’s first original screenplay, that came across as a wannabe No Country for Old Men.

The plot revolves around a man referred to only as The Counselor (Fassbender); a successful lawyer who seems to have it all until he uses one of his past client connections only known as Reiner (Bardem), to become  involved in a high stakes drug smuggling deal with a massive monetary payoff, that spins wildly out of control.

While the film packs an all-star cast which stars Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, and Cameron Diaz, it is still not enough to correct the flawed story and poorly written characters.  While I still felt that the cast portrayed their roles well, the characters themselves seemed to lack depth and get caught up in the tongue-twisting dialogue (mainly) about greed with a mix of foreshadowing.

The plot struggles very quickly into the movie and throws viewers into an intense scenario with little background information, which creates a natural feeling of disbelief.  For instance, there is essentially no driving reason behind The Counselor’s decision to enter into this smuggling deal.  I believe he briefly mentions to Reiner that he needs the money; yet, it’s tough to understand why he needs to risk everything on gaining $20 million while he spends the duration of the film speeding around in a convertible Bentley and attending parties and dinners where the level of luxury is displayed by having domesticated cheetahs everywhere.

While I enjoyed Brad Pitt as the middle man called Westray, I didn’t see a huge need for his character.  Westray’s meetings with The Counselor revolve around describing the terrible ways his cartel business associates kill people (snuff films and a motorized thick wire strangulation device) and reminding The Counselor that if the deal goes south, he has an escape plan while The Counselor does not.

When I got to the end of the movie, the plot was all over the place and left me very confused.  There are many unnecessary scenes with confusing and (too) vague of conversations on top of even more unnecessary characters, many of which only serve the eventual purpose of dying. Initially, I had no idea what I had just watched, but I was nowhere near satisfied.

After digesting The Counselor on a decent night’s sleep, the only theme I can piece together is that greed rules the corrupt; which is not nearly enough of a takeaway to leave the theater with, and after sitting through this confusing and unorganized let down from Scott, and more so, McCarthy, Fassbender delivers one line late in the film to perfectly sum up the viewing experience: “Why is this happening?”

If anyone did like the film, comment, and let me know why! I’m always open and curious to hear people’s perspectives!


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