Critics' Corner: The Counselor

The most shocking thing about "The Counselor" is that director Ridley Scott, Pulitzer Prize award winning writer Cormac McCarthy and a cast of stars like Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem and a long list of cameos and recognizable faces made such a movie with such a long list of things wrong with it. "The Counselor" is filmed beautifully and with a quality you would expect from somebody like Ridley Scott, but the screenplay is obviously one that was approved and celebrated because of the name behind it, rather than its merits.

"The Counselor" is a movie about multiple characters and a shipment of Mexican Cartel drugs headed for middle-America. Michael Fassbender's character, known only as 'the Counselor', is leading a double and successful life with a fiance (Penelope Cruz) and money enough to fly to Paris to buy an elite wedding ring for her. For some unknown reason though, he decides to play with fire and meddle in the cartel business, forming the nuts and bolts of the movie.

The problems with "The Counselor" are many and the biggest is too many silly and poorly fleshed out characters; many of which serve no purpose. In hindsight, many characters could have been removed entirely. One scene for instance features drug cartel members in Chicago receiving the shipment and revealing that one of the canisters holds a dead body. The scene means absolutely nothing to the story. Another features a prison convict who's son is a motorcycle messenger and her entire character could have been written out. There are many others.

The multiple pointless characters are obviously written to see how many celebrity cameo's they can get into its painful 117 minutes, but they also take away from the depth of the characters that actually do mean something to the main story. Maybe those characters did have depth and explanation, but the monotony of draggy scene after draggy scene made the whole painful experience blend together into one dull hum.

One particularly painful scene features 'The Counselor' talking to a character on the phone who is never explained, but it turns out that he was a senior member of the cartel named Jefe, played by Ruben Blades. Without any setup, we are suddenly inundated with a long monotone lecture on life as if read from a book of poetry. When I say the scene was long, I'm not exaggerating. It goes on and on and it may have even held some poetic meaning, if it weren't coming from a vicious murdering morally depraved cartel boss.

"The Counselor" is trying to be poetic and important and instead its dialogue comes across as pretentious and ridiculous. It's hampered with dozens of characters that could have been left on the cutting room floor in exchange for more depth in the main characters and a shorter less boring film. The ultimate problem with "The Counselor" though, lies in its core, in a sense that because of who was involved and who wrote it, it went forward without anyone questioning its many flaws. On top of all that, it's a dismal film that will make you go home and take a shower, but you'll never get the bad film-making out of your mind.