Actors: Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz
Director: Ridley Scott
Format: AC-3, Blu-ray, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: English (DTS 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Dubbed: English, French, Spanish
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Number of discs: 2
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Run Time: 118 minutes
I wanted to like The Counselor. I’ve read quite a bit of acclaimed author Cormac McCarthy’s work, and was amazed at how brilliantly the Coen brothers were able to capture the poetry in the violence with their adaptation of No Country for Old Men. The Counselor only further proves what a delicate balance was needed for the material in No Country for Old Men, showing how difficult making a film out of McCarthy’s material truly is. Sadly, Ridley Scott’s film proves this by being a complete and utter failure.
The storyline is rather simple, though you may not imagine it from the over-written dialogue from McCarthy’s screenplay. While the adaptation previously done successfully by the Coen brothers knew how to balance McCarthy’s distinct poetic speech patterns with strong visual storytelling, Ridley Scott’s film is controlled by the dialogue written by McCarthy. This means seemingly endless scenes of double-talk and metaphors between unlikable characters until we are given relief through death. Michael Fassbender heads up the cast as a lawyer with a happy life alongside a woman he loves (Penélope Cruz) until the lifestyle is threatened by a poor business decision.
Known only as Counselor (Fassbender), this lawyer greedily utilizes his connections with the criminal underworld to take part in drug trafficking with the Mexican drug cartel. This risk does not pay off well for the counselor, thanks to the untrustworthiness of the female companion to his business associate. Reiner (Javier Bardem) is careless in his business transactions, allowing his diabolical lover, Malkina (Cameron Diaz), the opportunity to stab all of the men in the back. There is a lot of thinly-veiled foreshadowing before bad decisions lead to brutal punishments from the faceless cartel.
This film is ugly. The dialogue is mostly obnoxious, clearly better suited for a novel than a screenplay, and Diaz is nearly unwatchable as the unforgivably one-sided femme fatale. Even Brad Pitt’s confident appearance in the film does not save the bleak pointlessness of the entire narrative. It is an ugly film leaving audiences with nothing entertaining or redeeming to leave the theater with and Ridley Scott seems to be dialing in his decisions as director. An unrated extended cut is also available with the Blu-ray release, though all of the additional material does nothing to help the pointlessness of McCarthy’s narrative.
The two-disc Blu-ray release includes the theatrical and extended cuts on separate discs. The first disc, along with the theatrical cut, contains a few featurettes about key characters in this unlikable story. The second disc has an extended cut that is about 20-minutes longer, as well as a making-of feature combined with a feature-length director’s commentary to make an immersive behind-the-scenes viewing experience.
Entertainment Value: 4/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 5.5/10
Historical Significance: 4/10
Special Features: 7/10