Starring: Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Rosie Perez, Brad Pitt, John Leguizamo, Toby Kebbell, Edgar Ramirez, Dean Norris, Ruben Blades, Goran Visnjic, Bruno Ganz
Running Time: 130 Minutes
With Ridley Scott directing a Cormac McCarthy script with this cast you’d be forgiven for being tricked into watching such a vapid piece of nonsense. Throughout the film you’ll spend more time wondering how everybody got roped into such pretentious drivel, rather than focusing on the plot. Ridley Scott has wanted to work with Cormac McCarthy for a long time, failing to get a ‘Blood Meridian’ adaptation off the ground, so he probably jumped at the opportunity to direct an original script from the novelist. This is also evident in the cast padding, where big stars walk on, say a few lines, and quickly walk again. I’ve purposefully mentioned John Leguizamo in the cast list above as he seems to be the only actor going uncredited and I believe everybody involved here should answer for their crimes.
The first 50 minutes (at least) of this painful extended edition, sees a series of one to one conversations. That’s it. Character’s meet up and then prattle on over some existential nonsense that simply bores. Intelligent scripts are fine, but they should at least advance the plot and manage to engage at the same time. McCarthy fails to shake off his novelist roots, with the huge downfall being that in a book the reader can imagine the delivery of lines, whereas an actor can only give one interpretation. Books also take place in the landscape of the mind, but a film takes on a realistic physical form. By the time a plot does get rolling, most audience members will comatose.
The plot sees Michael Fassbender as a counsellor who is called ‘Counsellor’. It isn’t even that his name is never mentioned, it’s that this is how people refer to him. He decides to get involved in some drug trafficking despite his high salary because as he puts it himself, he’s greedy. This spirals out of control when things go wrong and you can imagine the violent implications. It sounds good on paper, but everything is so tedious and drawn out I was literally doing muscle exercises to just stay awake. The film even seems to get bored of itself, after 50 minutes of ridiculous anecdote swapping between the characters, Scott finally decides to show one as a flashback, probably to jolt us out of the monotony of shot-reverse-shot dialogue sequences.
The film isn’t without merit. It looks gorgeous at times thanks to lavish set design and crisp cinematography, Cameron Diaz gives a career best performance despite having to dub her part in post after her thick Barbados accent was rejected by the studio (which leaves us with a hilarious moment where she declares “You Americans” without any indication she isn’t an American), and the film does contain one of the best and most excruciating deaths ever caught on film. It’s sequences like the latter that remind us what a great director Scott is, but when being handed a compilation of inane conversations he obviously struggles. These points aren’t enough to warrant a viewing though, and it should only be viewed by those with time to burn, but even then I’d suggest reading the script (available to purchase) rather than sitting through this cinematic effort.
[usr=1]THE COUNSELLOR is released on DVD and Blu-ray from 17th March.