How Could Cormac McCarthy's 'The Counselor' Possibly Have Failed?

If we cast back our minds some six months, The Counselor was tipped for Oscar glory. The bookmakers are prone to making false judgement calls when it comes to awards' season. Last year, the pairing of Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman under the stewardship of Paul Thomas Anderson was deemed faultless and, as such, The Master was tipped as a sure fire Oscar winner following its festival screenings that summer.

Michael Fassbender The CounselorMichael Fassbender [L] and Penelope Cruz [R] in The Counselor

Faltering down the market in the early stages was Argo - George Clooney and Ben Affleck's drama that went on to topple Spielberg's Lincoln, Lee's Life of Pi and Anderson's The Master.

Earlier this year, the bookies buckled under the weight of a collaboration between Ridley Scott and Pulitzer winner Cormac McCarthy and slashed the odds of The Counselor getting close to a couple of Oscars come March 2013. With a cast that includes man of the moment Michael Fassbender, the hugely reliable and talented Brad Pitt, Oscar winner Javier Bardem -not to mention Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz - it certainly looked to justify favouritism. 

It tells the story of a greedy lawyer (Fassbender), known only as The Counselor  who finds himself in over his head when he decides to delve into the murky world of drug trafficking. Along the way he meets his naïve girlfriend Laura (Cruz), a seedy middleman (Pitt), a dangerous couple (Bardem and Diaz) and a prison inmate (Rosie Perez) represented by a lawyer. 

Michael Fassbender Javier BardemMichael Fassbender [L] and Javier Bardem [R] in 'The Counselor'

There's been plenty of buzz about this movie in Hollywood, particularly amongst actors themselves. Deadline previously reported how Jeremy Renner, Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt were all interested in the playing the villain - with the Spanish actor eventually winning out. Natalie Portman was also thought to be in early discussions to play Laura, while Pitt's partner Angelina Jolie was circling the role of Malkina. 

It seems those missing out may have dodged an unexpected bullet with this one. Early reviews of the movie have not been pretty - leaving it reeling on a score of 33% on Rotten Tomatoes. To put that into context, The Counselor is apparently as bad as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Battle: Los Angeles and Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

Cameron Diaz Penelope CruzCameron Diaz [L] and Penelope Cruz [R] Relax in 'The Counselor'

"It contains memorable dialogue, vivid characters and several superb scenes, and yet it still manages to be wrong, a complete miscalculation," said Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Considering the deep bench of A-list talent involved, Ridley Scott's new Southwestern noir, The Counselor, is a jaw-dropping misfire," said Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly.

"Incoherent to the point of being incomprehensible, Ridley Scott's new film The Counselor, from a first-time (terrible) screenplay by novelist Cormac McCarthy, represents a low point for both of these highly acclaimed artists. It's a total mess," said C.J Johnson of ABC Radio over in Australia. 

Brad Pitt Michael Fassbender The CounselorBrad Pitt [L] and Michael Fassbender [R] in Ridley Scott's 'The Counselor'

"Nearly every plot twist is telegraphed by reams of stilted dialogue provided by novelist Cormac McCarthy in his first original screenplay," wrote the New York Post.

One of the few positive reviews came from Richard Roeper, who wrote on his website, "Sexy, complicated, smart, violent. Cool."

Though he's refusing to campaign for it, Michael Fassbender's Oscar chances appear to lie solely with Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave.

The Counselor hits theaters in the U.S. on Friday (October 25, 2013). 

Watch 'The Counselor' trailer:


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Tags: Michael Fassbender - Ridley Scott - Javier Bardem


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