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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

The Counselor | Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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The Counselor | Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt | Review

One of the most astonishing things about director Ridley Scott’s (Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise) latest effort is that despite his renowned body of work, Cormac McCarthy’s (No Country for Old Men) screenwriting debut, and a talented cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, and Cameron Diaz, the resulting product is so dull, rambling, and often pointless.

Bleak “humanscapes” are McCarthy trademarks, so while it is expected that there will follow a catalogue of the worst of human behavior, The Counselor is also mean-spirited, pretentious, and misogynistic.  Even that should make for a film that’s at least somewhat interesting.  You’d think.

The Counselor (Michael Fassbender) is in love with Laura (Penelope Cruz) and friends with Reiner (Javier Bardem) a slightly unsavory playboy with shady business dealings in Mexico.  Reiner’s girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz) is a calculating gold-digger with a pair of pet cheetahs; she loves to watch them hunt prey.

Short on funds and wanting in on a $20 million dollar drug deal, the Counselor gets involved in a multi-layered transaction that goes horribly wrong, jeopardizing his and Laura’s future in a variety of ways, none of them even remotely civilized.  A partner in the deal, Westray (Brad Pitt) is also targeted for a ghastly, if unique consequence.

Fassbender’s counselor seems to float on a current of bad decisions without ever taking responsibility for any of them.  Bardem must have a contract with McCarthy stipulating that he must sport preposterous hair in any of his film adaptations.  Pitt’s Westray is a jaded know-it-all, too smart for his own good, and Diaz would dearly love to be a villainess if only she knew how.

Ponderous dialogue, full of philosophical, pseudo-profundity adds to the viewer’s tedium, endlessly waiting for someone or something to care about.  Here, it just might be the cheetahs.  Every two-legged creature is ugly on the inside with the exception of one innocent victim with such little screen time it hardly matters.

The film’s big message comes down to – don’t mess around with drug cartels or you’ll be sorry.  A minor revelation is that a woman who has sex with your Ferrari probably doesn’t like you for your personality.  

Pointless? Yes. Disappointing? Affirmative. Tells you something you didn’t know? No.  Well, yes.  I didn’t know that all of this collective talent could render a film so brutal yet so uninteresting.  Pinballing from locations like Amsterdam, El Paso, Juarez, Mexico, and even Boise, Idaho only widens the depressing premise that there is no honor among men or women, even on an international level.

The reaction should elicit more than just a shrug.  You’d think.


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