The Counsellor (R16)

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Review byMatthew Turner15/11/2013

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 117 mins

Disappointing thriller that's let down by an overly-written script that's so in love with its own dialogue that it neglects to provide a coherent or engaging story.

What's it all about?
Directed by Ridley Scott and written by novelist Cormac McCarthy, The Counsellor stars Michael Fassbender as an unnamed lawyer referred to only as Counsellor, who buys his girlfriend Laura (Penelope Cruz) an enormous diamond ring and then sets up a lucrative drug-smuggling deal with his nightclub-owning friend Reiner (Javier Bardem) and third-party Westray (Brad Pitt) in order to pay for it. However, when the drug shipment is hi-jacked, Westray tells the counsellor that a Mexican cartel is holding him responsible and are demanding $20 million, putting himself and everyone he knows in great danger.

The Good
It's easy to see what drew the high-calibre cast to the project – McCarthy's literate script allows practically every character to indulge in lengthy monologues, at least one of which – Reiner describing his shock when calculating girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz) announced she was going to fuck his car and then proceeded to do just that, in flashback – is very amusing. Accordingly, the actors all deliver their allotted monologues well, though Cruz is massively under-used and Diaz is somewhat hampered by having had to redub all her lines after her Jamaican patois accent was deemed potentially offensive (the result is a baffling accent of indistinguishable origin).

The Bad
The film's biggest problem is that the filmmakers are so in love with McCarthy's over-written, all-pervasive dialogue that they forget to provide a coherent, engaging story. Similarly, it's impossible to get a handle on any of the characters – there are no clear motivations and you're left picking over the small amounts of information in any given speech to work out what's going on (and not in a fun way).

In addition, the tone of the film feels weirdly flat throughout, as if each speech were being delivered in the same monotone. Even the occasional (very occasional – the first one doesn't occur for nearly an hour) action sequence fails to liven things up, while the death scenes, when they eventually start piling up, feel anti-climactic and fail to generate any emotion, largely because the script doesn’t let us get to know any of the characters.

Worth seeing?
The Counsellor is a disappointingly dull thriller that wastes a talented cast and fails to generate any actual thrills, though die-hard McCarthy fans may find something to enjoy in the dialogue.

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The Counsellor (R16)
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Content updated: 19/02/2020 17:40

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