Saturday 16 November 2013

Review: The Counsellor

World of Blackout Film Review

The Counsellor Poster

The Counsellor (or The Counselor, if you're not in the UK*1)
Cert: 18 / 117 mins / Dir. Ridley Scott

It's no secret that I thoroughly enjoyed 2012's Prometheus, despite its flaws, but it looks like Sir Riddlage Scott has gotten wind of this and thought "Hmmm, I really wanted to aggrieve everyone with my film, but that doesn't quite seem to have occurred. Perhaps I'd better helm a half-arsed tale of drug-lords, sex and decapitations to mop up any stragglers." That's not to say that no-one will like The Counselor, but I watched bad things happening to bad people for two hours, and didn't really care about any of it*2. Neither, apparently, did the other four people in the auditorium (although the cinema staff had already commented to me that this film's had almost no push here).

So, Michael Fassbender plays a nameless lawyer, foraying into illegal activities like drug-running and failing to control an accent in a built-up area. He's very successful at one of these. Everyone else (Cruz, Diaz, Bardem, Pitt) seems to be enjoying themselves, but their characters never quite become more than a cartoonish outline of who they're meant to be. The main problem is that the trailer suggests a film full of slick dialogue and little exposition, and the feature goes ahead and delivers on that promise. The script feels like it's been written for quotation-value rather than coherence, and entire scenes trundle by, full of apparently meaningful exchanges, which fail to advance the plot, only clumsily erecting callbacks for later use.

The Counselor is more of a character-piece, and the A-listers are fleshed out to varying extents, but the story they're in is neither coherent or engaging enough to run for two hours. All of the stars have performed so much better elsewhere, so I really have to lay the blame at the feet of the director (worst case examples being Cruz & Fassbender's toe-curling*3 opening to the film, and the platitude-laden soliloquy from Diaz in her final scene, the latter featuring so many dramatic pauses you can almost hear the script-pages being turned in the background).

There's a tense, sexy, violent, darkly funny film in here somewhere, but this isn't the team to uncover it. The Counselor never becomes outright dissatisfying, but its enjoyable moments are few and far between.
For best results, file alongside The Place Beyond The Pines and Killing Them Softly.

Is the trailer representative of the film?
The trailer is way more concise than the film.

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?
Sometimes. Not enough.

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?
I don't think so.

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Will I watch it again?

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
There isn't.

And because you won't be happy until I've given it a score...

And my question for YOU is…
You know when that bloke sets up the wire in daylight (the one he pings in the trailer) to decapitate the biker, and then waits until it's completely dark before getting a phone call 15 seconds before the biker arrives (somehow) to let him know he's on his way? What's to stop ANY OTHER TRAFFIC from coming through a very public highway in the intervening hours and, if it's a truck, spanging the unbreakable*4 wire and flipping his van into the middle of the road, ruining the entire plan?
Why does wire-setup man assume the biker will sit upright when the lights come on, rather than just looking to his right with his head down?
Oh, That's two questions, isn't it? And now that's three.

*1 What's with the L's? Just call it "The Llawyer", why don't you? Honestly, it's like The Time-Traveler's / Traveller's Wife all over again. I could have just referred to it as "The Counselllor", to hit neither target, but that's not exactly search-engine friendly…

*2 Truth be told, Penelope Cruz failing to make it across a car park was a moment when I did care, but we barely get to know the woman, so it's not like i was welling up or anything. She's friends with Diaz's character, remember, so it's not like she's squeaky clean herself.

*3 Not 'toe-curling' in the way they were hoping for, either. It was embarrassing to the point where it couldn't have been any worse if my parents had been sat on either side of me.

*4 I am assuming it's the same wire used in the automatic-beheading-device, which has a loop big enough to fit over someone's head but which then contracts to the size of their neck instantly and then contracts more slowly. Somehow. That bit isn't really explained clearly. It's almost like someone just really wanted to use 'The Bolito' to the point where they didn't mind spending just as long explaining what it does, as they do actually showing it.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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