The Counselor is a Hollywood train wreck that is so vapid and bloated that it becomes painful to watch no matter how many times it tries to tell us that it has something meaningful to say. There is a deep rooted nihilism to the script that prevents any emotional connection to even one of the characters and, what is assumed to be, the protagonist is so cold and robotic that the audience is left without a through line to the story. This film fails on all levels with the possible exception of technical, but it is hard to appreciate the skill when what’s on screen is so utterly insane.
The plot (loosely defined) is centered around a lawyer who is never named that enters into a drug deal because he is hard up on cash even though he buys his girlfriend a 3.9 carat diamond engagement ring. He is the lawyer for a number of shady characters who instruct him to walk away and not go through with the deal. He does the deal anyway and it goes south. What follows is approximately an hour or so of characters talking about how meaningless life is. Characters are introduced solely to tell the lawyer how screwed he is. The lawyer is only slightly more screwed than those watching this film.
There is an abundance of talent involved in The Counselor and the fact that it fails so spectacularly is a wonder to behold. Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy are responsible for directing and writing respectively. The A list cast includes Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, and Brad Pitt. Only Bardem and Pitt have emboldened their characters with any kind of substance. Cruz is mostly wasted and Diaz is wildly miscast. Fassbender, while typically very good, plays this as an acting school how to, with his facial expressions ready at a moments notice but never finding any genuine emotion to go with them. All are given lines of stilted dialogue that only serve to further the divide between the audience and any kind of connection with the characters. Everybody involved in this project has made great movies in the past which makes it all the more surprising that no one ever stopped to think about what they were doing with The Counselor.
There are three or so scenes that are brilliantly done and would be wonderful if they were in another movie. There is also a scene where Cameron Diaz has sex with a car’s windshield. So take that as you may.