Why the Counsellor is Kinda Awesome

“There's a lot of great moments in Ridley Scotts latest film, but overall it falls a little flat”

Going into this film, I had somewhat cautious hopes; it's got a great cast, the premise – guy gets involved with crooks, and things go south – could easily be interesting, and it was helmed by Ridley Scott. Scott is one my all time favourite directors, but the reason I was cautious going into this film is because his last outing, Prometheus, was less than stellar and really quite disappointing. Still, I hoped it was just a blip, and we wouldn't see a repeat here.

Sadly, that hope was misplaced.

“The Counsellor oozes style”

Don't get me wrong, there are positive things to say about the film, and that's where I'll start. The acting is great across the board; Fassbender is great as the smooth talking lawyer that quickly gets in over his head, and his slow break down through the last third of the film is genuinely moving. Bardem and Pitt are excellent as Fassbenders philosophical, quirky criminal friends, and Cruz, though not getting much screen time, does well as Fassbenders oblivious wife. I have to give special mention to Cameron Diaz here, who, despite not exactly being known for her acting chops, gives what is quite possibly the stand out performance here; she plays Bardems cold as ice, manipulative girlfriend, and she really seems to relish the role – I was genuinely intimidated be her at times.

“Bardem's character is the definition of quirky”

There are also a lot of really great scenes and moments littered throughout the film, but, and here's my biggest gripe with the film, that's all they are – moments. In some ways, I felt about this film how I felt about Seven Psychopaths: it was like someone had thought up all these great scenes and moments that they wanted to do, and then thrown them together in some kind of forced narrative. The difference, however, is that in Seven Psychopaths it works, because that's a crazy, almost trippy film that parodies narratives; The Counsellor is trying to be a much more serious film, and its patchwork narrative, haphazard directing and bizarre pacing really throw it off.

It's clear from the get go that The Counsellor is trying to evoke philosophical vibes, with several bizarre but intriguing monologues about the nature of criminals, relationships, greed, death and more; unfortunately, it sometimes comes off as pretentious, like it knows its being “deep and meaningful” and it's trying to shove that down our throats. A little less philosophy and a little more drama would have gone a long way to helping this film.

“Be prepared for the most...uh...memorable...sex scene you'll ever witness”

As I mentioned, the pacing is bizarre, and the directing often haphazard. These two go hand in hand in this case, and it really feels like no one knew exactly where they wanted to take this story. There are times the pacing rapidly stepped up for no apparent reason, only to drop to a snails pace in the very next scene. The film jumped around in a way that didn't really seem to make sense, and the overall plot was very dissatisfying for me, in that it just ended. Whilst this can be a good thing (see: Don Jon), it most certainly can be a bad thing, as here. The double twist at the end – apart from being glaringly obvious – felt forced, like a Shyamalan desperately trying to claw back the wonder of The Sixth Sense. It was also unfulfilling, as we'd spent the film following our protagonist, Fassbender's titular character, only for nothing to really resolve about his story, and for it to feel like he'd been left by the roadside.

“Fassbender could barely hide his jealously at Pitt's luxurious locks”

You may be wondering, after the complaining I've just done about the film, why then did I give it a rating of “Kinda Awesome”? Well, first off, it's because our current system doesn't have a rating that would accurately describe the film for me. Secondly, I do believe it's worth a watch, if only for the acting, and some beautiful and memorable scenes. Sadly, though, it is another indication, perhaps, that Ridley Scott is struggling to find relevance in modern cinema, and that maybe his best days are behind me – and trust me, it pains me to say that.

This has been Blacksmith, for The Awesome Update.

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