Jesus Bollocking Christ, this is a dull movie. I haven’t been so bored whilst staring at a T.V. screen since I watched that documentary about my own romantic success stories. Somehow, ‘The Counselor’ actually manages to be less eventful and more masturbatory than my love life, and that’s fucking going some.
This is a film about nothing. I mean, stuff happens – there’s at least two beheadings and a woman fucking a car, but none of it actually builds to anything approaching a story. Ridley Scott filmed this two years after he did ‘Prometheus’ and apparently the only thing he he learned in the meantime was that his films really need less coherence and more baffling dialogue.
Right from the get-go you can tell something’s up. Michael Fassbender and Penélope Cruz roll around beneath the sheets, spewing dialogue that is meant to be intimate and sexy, and instead makes me feel ashamed for having genitals. Nobody in this film talks like a real person, except maybe Javier Bardem, whose most notable character trait is wearing colourful trousers.
The plot revolves around a sewage truck full of drugs, and its theft. That’s… that’s basically all that happens. Micky Fastlender is somehow involved, having something to do with the original deal, which means that when the truck is stolen, he and every single person he has ever spoken to is apparently to blame.
But the thing is, he doesn’t actually do anything. We never see or understand what his role in this big drug deal is going to be, and consequently all of the action that results seems fairly abstract. The script spares what feels like three hours to allow a character that we meet only once to pretentiously monologue about the philosophy of Mike Fuzzbuffler’s fate, but we never fucking understand what those choices actually are beyond the fact he planned to take part in some kind of drug deal in some capacity that is NEVER FUCKING EXPLAINED.
I understand entirely that this is meant to be a deep, thoughtful, philosophical film, but if that’s the case why do we get a scene of Brad Pitt being slowly killed and decapitated, spurting fountains of blood onto a London pavement? It’s a scene that’s gratuitous in every sense of the word – he just staggers about shouting “Fuck you!” over and over, as his fingers are sliced off and his carotid artery punctures. There’s nothing philosophical or deep about it, it’s just fucking vile.
Or that wonderful, truly insightful scene where Cameron Diaz fucks a car windscreen? With Javier Bardem describing it as “like a catfish on an aquarium wall”? Yeah, that was REALLY fucking deep, I can really see what you were going for there. It was an important scene that definitely needed to be included in the film, much more than any kind of explanation of the story.
In truth, this is a film where just about every scene proves to be redundant, or even indulgent. We see the truck getting stolen, but given that it directly involves precisely no speaking characters – there may have been a line or two, but it was all purely functional – the entire sequence may as well have happened off-screen. We see Javier Bardem chased down by cartel thugs, only for them to accidentally kill him, and then run off.
I’d be more forgiving of ‘The Counselor’ if it didn’t think so highly of itself. It could have been a creative misstep – an attempt at a meditative masterpiece like ‘Unforgiven’ that sadly missed the mark. But it feels much more like the writings of a moody, highly-literate sixteen-year-old who “sees the world the way it really is” and who “like, totally, y’know, gets what’s going on” and who thinks “like, yeah, y’know, she’s fucking the car because it’s, y’know, a metaphor for the thalassocracy.”
It tries to totally blow your mind, man, but instead is mostly empty, shallow drivel, packaged with a top-rated cast and filmed by a director who’s capable of so much more – as we later saw in ‘The Martian’. Indeed, it’s this kind of film that seems to be Ridley Scott’s weak point. When he sticks to focused, tight stories with a simple narrative – and that’s no criticism by any stretch – he can deliver magic. But as soon as he tries to stray into unknown territory, he just seems to lose focus entirely. ‘Gladiator’ was great for so many reasons, but it was at its heart a simple story in which the audience could invest. I wish Mr. Scott would stick to those kinds of narratives.
As a final note, other reviewers seem to have heaped praise on Cameron Diaz for her performance in ‘The Counselor’, and whilst I can’t really argue that she was bad, I’m not quite sure she was that amazing. She did well with an absurd script, but I’m not sure I every fully believed her performance.
Except for the bit where she fucked the car. She really convinced me that Ridley Scott had actually put a scene in his movie where a woman fucks a car. Otherwise, I would never have believed it.