‘The Counselor’ Movie Review – Forgetting the Basics
Making something your own is an under-appreciated concept with most moviegoers. For those that don’t see hundreds of movies a year, the monotony of the same recycled ideas over and over again may not seem that horrible. When we hear of a concept like Ridley Scott’s (Prometheus) The Counselor, we probably think of the latest Liam Neeson or Jason Statham movie where the good guy is wronged and redeems himself by becoming a gun-totting badass. Scott does his very best to avoid this pitfall, but by sidestepping this trap, he runs smack into various other traps, including a very dense script that’s poorly paced.
Simply put, The Counselor is about a lawyer (Michael Fassbender) that turns into a rich snob, ultimately leading to his involvement in a drug trafficking ring. He’s nicknamed “The Counselor,” (which is referred to close to a hundred times) and is deeply in love with Laura (Penelope Cruz). Eventually the plot thickens when his drug stash goes missing, prompting the higher-ups to hunt him down. This leaves his eccentric drugpin friend, Reiner (Javier Bardem), and his middleman, Westray (Brad Pitt), scrambling for their lives (among others).
It’s easy to assume the movie would become about The Counselor growing a pair and saving his own life. You’d expect the traditional rise and fall, likely resulting in one or two deaths and a satisfying resolution. The Counselor shoos away these notions and makes a determined effort to try something new.
The original script is by ‘No Country For Old Men’ author Cormac McCarthy, and the movie No Country For Old Men is a great comparison when trying to show how going outside traditional storytelling can pay off. Like The Counselor, it has a tendency to keep all characters in danger while ultimately delivering a head-scratching final scene.
One movie works much better than the other.
The Counselor’s main narrative issue comes through with the static character development. It’s tough to wade through the dense, borderline-cliche script; however, even upon further review, it becomes obvious that none of the characters have a significant change. And while I welcome a change of pace from the aforementioned Neeson and Statham-type crime thrillers, I still expect a little bit of character depth and change.
The thrills (although I’d argue The Counselor is much less a thriller than a drama) don’t have any footing when it comes to the narrative. It tries to build itself up without a firm foundation.
None of this is helped by an overly complicated, and suspiciously pretentious, screenplay. Don’t get me wrong, there are some genuinely good moments. However, it almost felt like McCarthy created a bunch of one-liners that touched on various important themes (one of the more effective ones comes with Reiner’s line about moral decisions) without picking one or two to explore fully.
Ridley Scott’s The Counselor is definitely a movie you have to be in the mood for. It’s got an interesting pace, which is set by an unusually clunky script. I will admit I initially left the theater with a bit more praise than what came through here, but I can’t look past some glaring holes in the narrative. Part of it can be blamed on loving a cast and crew so much before the movie even started, but that can’t be the only problem. And it certainly isn’t because in all of its attempts to be different, the movie forgot to pick a theme and change its characters along the way. You have to have the basics down before you move on to the next level.
The Counselor opened in wide release yesterday. Check it out and leave your comments below.
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