The Counselor

photo In the feverish television marketing campaign leading up to the new movie The Counselor (no doubt intended to earn as much money as possible from opening weekend, before word gets out), the one pull quote they use from the Rolling Stone review is “expect the unexpected!”

Boy, I’ll say.

The unexpected is all you get in The Counselor, the new movie from director Ridley Scott and first-time screenwriter Cormac McCarthy. That’s right, 80-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy waited until now to try his hand at screenwriting. In case there’s some confusion, No Country For Old Men, the Best Picture Oscar winner of 2007, was based on McCarthy’s novel, but was actually written for the screen by co-directors Joel and Ethan Coen, not McCarthy. Turns out there was a reason for that. Seems there’s a big difference between writing a classic American novel and a screenplay.

The Counselor is one of the most convoluted, meandering, narcissistic, pointless, sexist and head-scratching experiments in big-budget filmmaking I’ve ever seen.

Challenge: Let’s see how many A-list actors, directors and writers we can get together to make the worst piece of drivel possible. GO.

Winners: Stars of The Counselor Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender, because they have their other movie 12 Years a Slave out at the same time, so they can hide behind that good movie and pretend this one doesn’t exist.

Losers: The rest of us.

I’m still wondering how this movie even happened. I mean, I know HOW it happened. Ridley Scott says he’s directing a movie written by Cormac McCarthy and boom, actors line up. So the brilliant cast of Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz and Oscar winners Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz doesn’t surprise me. Who doesn’t want to work with Ridley Scott. What does surprise me is how and why a director of Scott’s caliber and stature agreed to film a script this inane, no matter who wrote it. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a film so mangled by the lack of coherence as this one. I’ve been lost in films before, but there was usually at least a starting point for the plot and I would get stuck somewhere when the story got too twisted or confusing. In The Counselor, there never is even a jumping off point, unless you count the cliff I wish I had been on when the opening credits ended.

The only semblance of a story that I could make out is something about a big drug deal going down at some point, involving the main characters, lawyer Fassbender, nightclub owner Bardem, and “advisor” Pitt. A truck loaded with cocaine is moving from Mexico to Chicago and, apparently, its arrival is key to everything, but your guess is as good as mine as to how or why or when. There is a lot of talk about this deal and the people behind the deal and the implications of the deal and the moral magnitude of the deal and…oh forget it. There’s just a lot of talk, period.

I’ve never heard so many words spoken by actors hold so little meaning in any movie in my life. I’ll never complain about an Aaron Sorkin soliloquy again. I really had no idea that there were so many ethical dilemmas in the drug trade, so many moments of deep contemplation about consequences of choices and the meaning of life in general. That and the varied detailed methods the cartel have for beheading people. Very illuminating cocktail conversation, by the way.

The dialogue in The Counselor is so stilted and forced, so contrived and calculated, nothing feels natural or relatable for a single second. Nor does any of it make sense. You really have no idea what’s going on, what these people are talking about and, pretty soon, you don’t care.

To make matters especially worse, McCarthy chooses to channel his best Joe Eszterhas in his one (and hopefully only) screenplay, writing one of the most offensively sexist and disgusting movie portrayals of women I’ve seen since, well, Eszterhas in the mid ‘90s. Reminscent of the Basic Instinct and Showgirls years (and not in the fun, campy way), The Counselor features characters played by Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz in classic whore/virgin roles, one the idealized, pure beauty, the other the oversexed villain, neither of whom are defined by anything but those characteristics, which is not only insulting and offensive to women, but to any human being with a brain in their head.

I seriously have no idea why this movie was made but the only saving grace is people are taking notice and staying away in droves. I suggest you do the same.