This film proves that all the right ingredients don't necessarily make a movie work. Even with top-drawer filmmakers and actors, this dramatic thriller simply never grabs our interest. It looks great, and everyone is giving it their all, but the story and characters remain so badly undefined that we can't identify with either.
The story's set on the US-Mexico border, where a slick lawyer (Fassbender) known as "the Counsellor" has slightly too much going on in his life. He has just proposed to his dream woman Laura (Cruz), while he's planning to open a nightclub with Reiner (Bardem). For extra cash, he's organising a massive cocaine shipment with Westray (Pitt). And it's this drug deal that goes wrong, creating a mess that engulfs Reiner and Laura, as well as Reiner's shrewd girlfriend Malkina (Diaz). As his life collapses around him, the Counsellor scrambles to salvage what he can, even as he realises that it'll be a miracle if anyone survives.
There are problems at every level of this production. McCarthy's first original script is simply too literary, putting verbose dialog into the actors mouths that never sounds like people talking to each other. Fassbender and Bardem are good enough to get away with this, but Pitt and Diaz struggle. Both Fassbender and Cruz bring out some wrenching emotions in their scenes, but their characters are never much more than cardboard cutouts. In fact, no one in this story feels like a fully fleshed-out person. And the little we know about each character makes most of them fairly unlikeable.
While Scott's direction is slick and often gorgeously cool, it never cracks the surface. Key events don't quite make sense, and the plot's snaky structure is darkly elusive. Scenes often shift into brutal violence that leaves us feeling cold. And the only moments that register are the irrelevant sideroads (such as an unforgettably lurid flashback involving Bardem, Diaz and a Ferrari). So in the end, we can enjoy the technical skill on display, both in the acting and directing, but we never feel like it has any point beyond reminding us that our actions sometimes have unexpected consequences.
Run time: 117 mins
In Theaters: Friday 25th October 2013
Box Office USA: $17.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $71M
Distributed by: Fox Films
Production compaines: Translux, Fox 2000 Pictures, Scott Free Productions, Nick Wechsler Productions, Chockstone Pictures, TSG Entertainment, Ingenious Media, Big Screen Productions, Kanzaman
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 34%
Fresh: 66 Rotten: 128
IMDB: 5.4 / 10
Director: Ridley Scott
Screenwriter: Cormac McCarthy
Starring: Michael Fassbender as The Counselor, Cameron Diaz as Malkina, Javier Bardem as Reiner, Penélope Cruz as Laura, Brad Pitt as Westray, Dean Norris as Buyer, Emma Rigby as Tony's Girl, Rosie Perez as Ruth, Goran Višnjić as Banker, Bruno Ganz as Diamond Dealer, Toby Kebbell as Tony, Barbara Durkin as Cafe Waitress, Donna Air as Chauffeur, Giannina Facio as Woman with Mobile Phone, Richard Brake as Second Man, Sam Spruell as Wireman, Sam Spruell as Watching Girl, Alex Hafner as Highway Patrolman, Richard Cabral as Young Biker, Dar Dash as Barman, Paris Jefferson as Waitress, Christopher Obi as Malkina's Bodyguard, Velibor Topić as Sedan Man, Gerard Monaco as Hotel Waiter, Fernando Cayo as Abogado, Carlos Julio Molina as Workman, Natalie Dormer as Blonde, Rubén Blades as Jefe, Julien Vialon as Maître D', Goran Višnjić as Banker