Ridley Scott’s lavish film of Cormac McCarthy’s The Counsellor is a flamboyant and baffling account of a wealthy businessman caught in the murky depths of shady dealings.
This is McCarthy’s screenwriting debut, and with a throng of A list names attached there is plenty to get excited about. Michael Fassbender is said Counsellor, an impeccably suave walking advertisement for all that is high-end living. Designer suits, cars and beers feature heavily in his designer lifestyle, with scenes that could be plucked straight from a glossy men’s magazine.
In partnership with Javier Bardem’s whacky entrepreneur, The Counsellor partakes in a risky drug smuggling operation whilst co-funding a new nightclub and loving his woman, a sweet if simpering Penelope Cruz. Also involved in the chaos are a cowboy hat toting Brad Pitt and a fiercely seductive Cameron Diaz with a smattering of odd bit parts from John Leguizamo to the girl that played Hannah in Hollyoaks.
Plot and subplots smash together in a video game like fashion as events turn increasingly dirty. Supporting characters are used and tossed aside with abandon, clouding what should be a simple drug heist thriller with an unnecessary amount of mayhem.
It looks fantastic. Gaudy costumes and lush interiors bring a near pantomime feel to the film, with Diaz cloaked in a volume of animal print usually reserved for a Disney villain and Pitt’s casual swagger is served justice with an array of pale suits and cowboy boots.
Sadly the full impact of The Counsellor fails to hit its mark. McCarthy’s screenplay falls flat, either through its deliverance or busy temperamental nature. Whole scenes could be severed based on their complete lack of relevance to the story and in some cases sheer vulgarity.
Fassbender performs his role valiantly, engaging in his character’s downward spiral with tear stained snotty validity. Diaz fleshes out some of the film’s more bizarre scenes but plays restrained viciousness believably. Even with Scott’s decadent touch however The Counsellor is a hazy, ambiguous film that raises more questions than answers.