"I'm pretty skeptical about the goodness of the good."
The Counselor is without a doubt one of the most divisive films of the year. It has received a lot of hatred, but at the same time some people absolutely loved it. I understand why this film has caused such a reaction because it doesn't follow your normal narrative structure and is heavy on the philosophical dialogues. I've liked most of Ridley Scott's films, I was one of the few who actually loved Prometheus, and I also think that Cormac McCarthy is a great novelist (No Country for Old Men being his masterpiece) so when I heard the two were going to work together I couldn't help but add this to my watchlist. My expectations took a blow when I read all the early reviews and so I went into this expecting a complete flaw. To my surprise it wasn't as bad as I was lead to believe (I can think of at least 50 films I've seen this year that are far worse) and I ended up slightly enjoying this. Despite its heavy loaded philosophical dialogues and lack of characterization, there are some great scenes in The Counselor and some great performances. This film easily has one of the most memorable murder scenes I've seen all year, but at the same time it has many scenes that really felt out of place (like the scene involving Cameron Diaz and the yellow Ferrari). The Counselor feels more like a McCarthy film than a Ridley Scott movie, and his dark humor and anti climatic scenes are all over the place here in this suspenseful thriller (if I can really call it that because it isn't really generic at all). The Counselor isn't an easy watch and at times it feels too preachy, but it kept my interest nonetheless. McCarthy's message about facing the consequences of your sins was loud and clear in The Counselor.
The plot is pretty simple actually as the film focuses more on the dialogues than the actual events. Michael Fassbender plays a successful lawyer who is known simply as the Counselor. He falls deeply in love with Laura (Penelope Cruz), a girl of simple tastes, but in order to give her a dreamy life the Counselor decides to enter a one time deal involving drug trafficking. His business associate, the wealthy Reiner (Javier Bardem) who spends most of his time drinking expensive whisky in the mornings and watching his pet cheetahs hunt down rabbits, warns him about the dangers involved in this deal. Reiner has been in this business for a long time and knows how the cartel works, but the Counselor decides to team up with him nonetheless. Reiner's girlfriend, Malkina (Cameron Diaz), is a very smart woman who is kind of shady as Reiner never knows what she is up to. The middle man involved in the transaction between the cartel and Reiner is Westray (Brad Pitt) who also warns the Counselor about the world he's getting himself into. The deal is an apparently simple one as the cartel uses Reiner's trucks to carry the drugs to Chicago, but an unfortunate accident puts everyone's life in danger.
The Counselor, who ironically in this film is always receiving advice from everyone, learns that greed isn't a good thing. The film focuses on greed and evil, but there is way too much talking at times which makes it feel too preachy at times. I think that much of the criticism this film is receiving has to do with the high expectations that people had about it considering the talented cast and crew involved int his film. Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, and Brad Pitt actually lift this film in my opinion and make their characters bearable to watch on screen. These characters aren't people we would care for in any other film, but the actors make it tolerable. I especially liked Fassbender in this film and I think he gives yet another powerful performance. The weakest link here was Cameron Diaz who never felt natural in my opinion, but that perhaps was part of McCarthy's plan. She isn't as strong as Bardem was in No Country for Old Men, but she kind of plays that same character that McCarthy tends to include in his novels. This is the first time that McCarthy writes an original screenplay since the other films were based on his novels, and this is definitely more his film than Scott's. If you are a fan of his work than you will probably like this film more than other people. I think one of the key McCarthy moments can be seen through Ruben Blades's monologue about how our decisions ultimately set our fate. There are just too many memorable scenes in this film for me not to give it a passing grade. The Counselor isn't an easy watch, but if you go into it with your expectations lowered you might actually be in for a surprise.