It’s part of the documented legacy of Hollywood as a business that a staggering majority of its output is based on various works of literature, so much so that it’s more likely you’d be shocked at the movies you love that weren’t based on books (Highlander, surprisingly, was not a novel to begin with). Logically enough though, once a specific author’s works have reached a certain level of critical acclaim, as Cormac McCarthy’s (writer of the source novels for both The Road and No Country For Old Men) did, it’s fairly expected that they’ll cut out the middle man and just start screenwriting themselves. Which McCarthy has. And the results are about as middling as you’d expect.
A fairly pretentious who’s-double-crossing-who tale (lawyer organises a drug deal, it goes bad), The Counsellor is notable for being a movie so devoid of excitement or interest that it’s almost comparable to a still image (making visual aficionado Ridley Scott an almost hilarious choice to direct). Novelist McCarthy has, as is his forte, written a stuffy novel – an entire scene takes place in which a man flicks a switch, lengthy conversations are had about the coloration of diamonds, existentialism is discussed in great detail – all without even the faintest hint of relevance to what can laughably be called the plot. The plot, incidentally, is so cliché-ridden that at one point a character is killed off in a manor telegraphed so far in advance that an argument can genuinely be made for it to be considered time travel.
The cast, for what they’re worth, do a very fine job. Fassbender, Pitt and Bardem all turn in the sort of performances they’re well known for at this point (straight man, smug and eccentric, respectively), while Penelope Cruz does her best with limited material but really comes out with just the token love interest role. It’s Cameron Diaz that truly sinks the acting boat however, with a role so far beyond her abilities that it – when coupled with the film’s very stilted and high-brow dialogue – makes her come across as simply inept, as though she doesn’t wholeheartedly understand what it is she’s saying at any given point.
It’s a wordy mess of a dramatic thriller, given the faintest hint of visual flair by a seemingly bored Ridley Scott and some half decent performances; essentially it’s a slightly better version of Babel, but not by much.
Catch Van Connor’s reviews in our Movies section and live on Slam Dunk Cinema every Saturday at 12PM on Sheffield Live! 93.2FM or on the podcast via iTunes.
Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt