Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt
“Men are attracted to flawed women too of course, but their illusion is that they can fix them. They just want to be entertained. The truth about women is that you can do anything to them except bore them.”
The thing about movie critics is that we are attracted to flawed movies, of course. The illusion is that there is so much more to say about them. We just want to be entertained. The truth about movie critics is that you can show anything to them, except something boring. ‘The Counsellor’ is a rather warped, weighty, and dramatic crime-thriller. It’s heavy on lurid, abstruse quotations about the beauties and delicacies of life, and light on the action which a big-budget project typically demands. Yet, the action it does provide, among many willful disquisitions, is insane and appallingly gruesome. For every thirty minutes of build-up in ‘The Counsellor’, there are five minutes of sprinting, gory action sequences that blow you away with ridiculousness and unpredictability. Maybe we’re the flawed ones for believing it would be true to conventional form.
The critics, for the most part, hated ‘The Counsellor’. They called it “wordy”, “clumsy”, and mercilessly “short on suspense”. I disagree. I loved it. It had a heady feel of ‘No Country For Old Men’ meets ‘Traffic’. The beginning is slow and plodding, which sets up delicately for the crass and destructive ending. The critics believe an all-star cast – consisting of Pitt, Bardem, Fassbender, Diaz and Cruz – was wasted on a pointless storyline that didn’t deliver anything but another Ridley Scott directing credit. Not so fast; ‘The Counsellor’ is raunchy, seductive and abhorrent, but cleverly electrifying. It’s the antithesis of everything we expect from this kind of film, yet finds merit in an almost idealistic union of Cormac McCarthy’s gloom and Scott’s precise sophistication.
In short; Cameron Diaz is a psycho, Brad Pitt equally so, Javier Bardem’s just plain confused by it all, Penelope Cruz is too sweet, and Michael Fassbender is the do-gooder. How they mix those actors with their inclinations, together is the beauty of film. One might call it a crossbred medley of calamity. Or maybe I’m alone in that opinion. The reason ‘The Counsellor’ works is that it refuses to conform. It slogs when it wants to slog. It decimates when it wants to decimate. I don’t think Ridley Scott and his team made this film to win anybody’s approval, and when you get over that, you’ll like it a whole lot more, much as I did.
Let me leave you with this powerful quote from the film that struck me as out-of-place in the moment, but definitive in the film’s aftermath:
“You are the world you have created. And when you cease to exist, this world that you have created will also cease to exist. But for those with the understanding that they’re living the last days of the world, death acquires a different meaning. The extinction of all reality is a concept no resignation can encompass. And then, all the grand designs and all the grand plans will be finally exposed and revealed for what they are.”