List Film

The Counsellor (2 stars)

Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy's collaboration is disappointingly distant and needlessly convoluted

The Counsellor

On paper, this collaboration between Sir Ridley Scott, one of cinema’s great visual stylists, and Cormac McCarthy, one of the literary world’s foremost writers, should be a match made in movie heaven. Unfortunately, The Counsellor is closer to cinema hell, sometimes deliberately so, but generally not in a good way. Needlessly convoluted and populated by characters that are difficult to like, the film intrigues more than it satisfies.

Michael Fassbender, reuniting with Scott after Prometheus, plays the counsellor, a suave lawyer who has entered into a deal with a drug cartel that’s designed to get him out of an economic fix, but which unsurprisingly turns bad, placing him and those he knows, from colleagues (Javier Bardem) and partners (Brad Pitt) to loved ones (Penelope Cruz), in peril.

As with McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men, greed is the enemy here and the writer – delivering his first screenplay – forces those seduced by it to pay a heavy price. Most of the characters are like the desert hare seen being pursued by two cheetahs at the start of the film, running away from near-certain death.

The Counsellor is a cold, pessimistic film that feels especially unforgiving. McCarthy’s script is far too distanced for its own good and requires more from its audience than it is prepared to give back. It doesn’t so much subvert convention as display a complete disregard for it. There’s no visible enemy, peripheral characters are dropped in randomly and go nowhere, and the main players feel particularly uninvolving. Scott delivers the odd visual to try and shock viewers out of their apathy (from Cameron Diaz getting promiscuous with a car to motorcycle decapitations) but here he’s fighting a losing battle.

General release from Fri 15 Nov.

The Counsellor - New Trailer - 20th Century Fox Official HD

The Counsellor

  • 2 stars
  • 2013
  • US/UK
  • 117 min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Ridley Scott
  • Written by: Cormac McCarthy
  • Cast: Brad Pitt, Goran Visnjic, Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem
  • UK release: 15 November 2013

A suave lawyer (Fassbender) enters into a drug deal that unsurprisingly turns bad, placing those who know him (Bardem, Pitt, Cruz) in peril. The collaboration of Scott and McCarthy sounds promising, but the script is needlessly convoluted, the characters are uninvolving and the odd visual shock fails to redeem this cold…


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