* out of ****
One of the awards season's biggest misfires has arrived with Ridley Scott's The Counselor. Featuring an original script by novelist Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men), the film tells the story of a nameless counselor (Michael Fassbender, stranded in a blank role) involved in the drug trade.
In directing No Country for Old Men, the Coen Brothers mitigated McCarthy's eye-rolling pretentiousness with masterfully suspenseful staging that would've made Hitchcock proud. Here, it's almost all talk, talk, and more talk. This might be okay if the dialogue felt as real as in Before Midnight. But in The Counselor, most characters speak in stilted, lengthy, pseudo-intellectual monologues. By the time a murderous kingpin (Ruben Blades) appears near the end to deliver a lecture in philosophy over the phone to a character he's just met, it's downright laughable. Some characters appear once in a pointless scene, then disappear for the rest of the film.
Of the actors, Javier Bardem (a drug lord) and Brad Pitt (a middleman) fare the best. Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz fare the worst, but the script does them no favors. Cruz is one of the most one-dimensional damsels in distress in recent cinema history. Diaz is woefully miscast as a femme fatale and saddled with some of McCarthy's most painfully awkward dialogue.
Unless you're morbidly curious, avoid this at all costs.