‘The Counselor’ is a Bust

Daniel Woodhouse


The Counselor is a thriller film from the first original film screenplay by Cormac McCarthy, directed by Ridley Scott.

The Road and No Country for Old Men are two of the most unique fiction novels of the modern era. Cormac McCarthy seems to have slipped up in his latest work The Counselor.


From what little I was able decipher from the film’s confusing plot, there’s this nameless lawyer who works, and/or is friends, with a rich drug dealer named Renier. Renier convinces him to get involved with some drug deal. Renier never mentions what the deal is or what the lawyer’s involvement will be. The lawyer himself never even gets involved in Renier’s drug deal, yet the cartel still comes after him, only because he bailed out the son of an old client of his that happened to be working for the cartel. That son was killed, delivering some mystical device that activates a truck loaded with drugs belonging to the cartel, and this truck is then stolen by people working for Renier’s girlfriend. That’s literally all I could tell you about the plot, because the story has unintelligible dialogue and a story that goes nowhere.


The core problem of this movie is the script. This is a first for McCarthy, a writer who both knows how to write interesting characters, great dialogue and compelling stories. The first problem with the script is the dialogue. McCarthy seemed to have memorized the entire Webster Dictionary recently, because some of the most obscure words and phrases make up the bulk of basic conversations between characters. Which in turn will cause you to scratch your head and ask “Uhhh does anybody know what they’re saying?” Don’t bother trying to figure it out as you’ll have an easier time translating the Spanish than the actual “English” spoken in this movie. In addition to the language barrier, the story jumps around all over the place and then ends so abruptly that it left me asking, “Can I have my money back?”


Director Ridley Scott is a veteran filmmaker and, as this film’s director, should have done a better job of editing the script. Then again, Scott is usually more interested in the action parts of the movie than the actual writing, and if criticism of his latest film Prometheus is to be believed, he may actually be losing his touch.


While Cameron Diaz (Malkina), Michael Fassbender (The Counselor), Javier Bardem (Renier), Brad Pitt (Westray) and Penelope Cruz (Laura) all give good performances, they are held back by their weak characters. Diaz is probably the most unique of the bunch, but despite an exceptional performance, her character comes off as just bizarre, as she has this weird fascination with leopards, and at one point in the movie literally humps Renier’s car in what has got to be one of the most ridiculous scenes I’ve seen in a long time. Fassbender is magnificent as he once again proves what a versatile actor he is, yet other than the name The Counselor, there’s almost nothing interesting about his character, besides that he’s a little greedy. Bardem at first appears as the most colorful, in terms of characterization, but unfortunately spends most of the movie whining and complaining about his personal problems, despite the fact that he has more money than God and a hyper-sexually active girlfriend. Pitt and Cruz are given little to do, besides talk a lot to the Counselor, and nothing really happens to them up until the third act. Also, Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris and Game of Thrones‘ Natalie Dormer each make one minute cameos for no reason, other than to add to an already A-list actor list.


To wrap up, McCarthy stumbled down the stairs a bit on this one, but it’s Scott I’m really disappointed with. I really do wonder if his golden days as a filmmaker are coming to an end.

2 out of 5 stars