VAUGHN: “The Counselor” the latest of Ridley Scott’s disappointments

November 2, 2013 

I revisited Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” last week not knowing that I would be going to see “The Counselor” soon after. Although the two films couldn’t be further apart in story, they do share something that has become a running theme in Scott’s latest work: laziness.

In the theater I remember being floored by the set design, the special effects, the costuming and art direction in “Prometheus.” When viewed on a smaller screen, the larger than life presence quickly dissolves and the numerous plot holes and the overall flatness of the film become glaringly evident. Scott’s work is a lack of proper discipline; he’s got the aesthetics down, but doesn’t extend his efforts much further.

“The Counselor” suffers a similar fate. It is a striking film to watch on screen, for reasons very different from “Prometheus,” but feels incomplete.

The film was penned by Cormac McCarthy. Although many of his films have been adapted to the screen (“No Country for Old Men,” “The Road”), this is his first screenplay written for the screen. I imagine it reads fantastically on paper.

The movie opens with Michael Fassbender (only known as Counselor) and his soon-to-be wife Laura (Penelope Cruz). Based on his Bentley and the giant diamond ring hanging on Laura’s wedding finger, it’s safe to say that the counselor is doing just fine.

Laura has tamed his lust for women, but his insatiable hunger for money has grown stronger. When he naively signs on to smuggle cocaine from Colombia to the United States, things inevitably go haywire, and he puts his faith into an old friend, Reiner (Javier Bardem), and his partner, Malkina (Cameron Diaz), to save him from the cartel.

The film dives head first into ultra-violence, a sex scene involving a Ferrari that would make David Cronenberg’s “Crash” look like an episode of “Sesame Street,” and a tamed cheetah used for hunting – all of which is woven into conversations about morality, humanity and capitalism. It’s a mess, but at least it’s a pretty mess.

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