The pedigree, on screen, is there: Ridley Scott directing, filling his film with a cast of heavyweights like Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, and Cameron Diaz. Then add Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men, The Road) writing his first original screenplay, and it seems you would have a slam-dunk of a film. But something, somehow, went wrong.
The titular counselor is played by Michael Fassbender. We never find out his real name, except we know he is quite the lover (from the sexy opening scene with Penelope Cruz), and is apparently a successful lawyer (based on the size of engagement ring rock he chooses for his lady). But he seems to be bent on getting mixed up in an El Paso drug smuggling ring in order to… what… get more money? His motivation is squishy. His friends? acquaintances? business partners? played by the likes of Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt, try to warn him away from the business of drugs, but the counselor is naive? greedy? stupid? Who knows.
The next thing we know is that something has gone very wrong with a cross-border delivery worth some $20 million, and everyone in the counselor’s orbit is in deep, deep trouble. You know the kind of trouble where someone mentions a deliciously simple new assassination device that pulls an irreversible noose made of wire around someone’s neck, and that very device shows up later to splash all sorts of blood across the screen. Well then.
There are many problems with The Counselor, with the main problem being that I really didn’t understand what the heck was going on. The players often wax poetic, chewing on McCarthy’s seemingly philosophical dialogue. Fassbender then would gnash his teeth in response, and you would just assume that yet another character would be offed shortly. The two main female characters fit nicely into the ridiculously predictable Madonna/Whore mold. Penelope Cruz is sweet, sexy, and innocent. Then there’s Cameron Diaz, as a mysteriously powerful, manipulating beeyotch who even terrifies her drug kingpin boyfriend (Bardem) by having sex with his car (which will be my single take-away scene from this film). Surprisingly familiar actors show up for short scenes, and are never seen again.
When all is said and done, people have been shot, tortured, strangled, and/or beheaded. And rather than feeling emotional, you are left scratching your head, wondering what the heck the movie was about.
The Blu-ray Combo Pack includes the Unrated Extended Cut of the film (an extra 20 minutes, for those interested), theatrical trailers, and TV spots. More (surprisingly) interesting is “Truth of the Situation: Making The Counselor” which features a feature-length commentary by director Ridley Scott, along with over a dozen featurettes that are accessed at various content-appropriate points throughout the film. You can’t accuse Scott of being anything thorough in everything he does! Finally, there are three short films featuring characters from the movie.