“When lawyer (Michael Fassbender) tries his hand at drug trafficking it doesn’t end well. Seriously, that’s it. Not a lot else happens.”

The Counsellor Review
By Matt Allen

The Counselor (2013)
Certificate: 18
Cast: Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz,Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem
Director(s): Ridley Scott
Screenwriter(s): Cormac McCarthy
Running Time: 132 mins

Recent years have seen the novels of acclaimed writer Cormac McCarthy adapted into hugely successful films such as The Road and No Country for Old Men. Now, McCarthy has chosen to drop the middleman and develop an original screenplay of his own with The Counsellor.

When lawyer (Michael Fassbender) tries his hand at drug trafficking it doesn’t end well. Seriously, that’s it. Not a lot else happens.

McCarthy’s novels have proved incredibly suited to adaptation by talented screenwriters who have translated the inherent narrative style into a cinematic format. In bypassing this stage and choosing to write the screenplay himself, McCarthy has deprived The Counsellor of this all important step and as such the film comes across as someone desperately trying to do a poor imitation of a McCarthy tale.

All the pieces are there, the cryptic, foreshadowing dialogue – the overcast sense of inevitability, a cavalcade of idiosyncratic characters – yet they never quite fit together and what is left is merely a faint shadow of what you might come to expect from McCarthy’s novels.

As expected with McCarthy’s first venture into screenwriting, the script has attracted an all-star cast as well as a skilled director in Ridley Scott. While the performances are enjoyable, no one here excels beyond their average best. Fassbender gets his chance to show off his acting chops with a good old cry, Javier Bardem plays it cool – although his barnet is frankly ridiculous to the point of distraction – and Brad Pitt plays Brad Pitt in a cowboy hat.

The only person here playing a role out of the norm is Cameron Diaz as the malevolent Malkina who starts every line with a chuckle and ends it with a sardonic look of disdain. This delivery becomes tiresome long before the first dozen times and, aside from one hilarious scene – which is described perfectly as simply “too gynecological” by Bardem’s showy drugs runner – Malkina will only be remembered as the reason Diaz should never stray too far from type.

The film’s only saving grace is also its bravest choice. The film’s main concern is consequences, not the choices that lead to them and as such the script has made the bold move of establishing as little conventional exposition as possible. The choices have been made long before the opening credits, we are only here to witness the results. This unusual quality might have been enough to elevate the film to something deserving of more interest had it not been for the painfully typical story line that lay at its foundation.

Ultimately, I would rather stare down the barrel of Cameron Diaz’s vagina pressed up against a car windscreen for 90 minutes before sitting through this one again. That’ll make more sense if you’ve seen the film…

Maniac Rating - 2 Stars