Some studio execs must have thought they’d died and gone to Hollywood heaven with “The Counselor.” Heavy-hitter cast. Check. Famous director. Check. Big-name writer. Check. Box-office ka-ching. Not so fast.
The minds behind the would-be thriller “The Counselor” — including writer Cormac McCarthy and director Ridley Scott — forgot one thing: a script that anyone would care about or even one that makes much sense. Rarely has so much effort and star power been expended with so little result.
Michael Fassbender is an El Paso lawyer who is simply addressed as Counselor. This Man With No Name seems to lead a charmed life with a sexy fiancee, Laura (Penelope Cruz), sharp clothes, cool car, and presumably a bedroom full of high-thread-count sheets under which he and Laura make gloriously passionate love, which is how the movie opens.
For some reason, Counselor decides to get involved in the illicit cross-border drug trade through his club-owner friend Reiner (Javier Bardem) and one of Reiner’s contacts, Westray (Brad Pitt). Of course, this decision backfires after the improbable murder of a courier for which the cartels blame Counselor.
Now, neither Counselor nor any of his associates are safe. Meanwhile, Reiner’s latest girlfriend, the stridently sexual Malkina (Cameron Diaz) — who’s so vixen-like and dangerous that she keeps cheetahs as pets — is arm candy and has secret motives of her own. She loses cool points, though, with her supposedly arousing acrobatics on the windshield of Reiner’s car. The display ranks as one of the most unintentionally comic scenes of the year.
There’s little suspense or any sense of tension, even though Fassbender gives it his all as a man pushed to breakdown.
“The Counselor” is ultimate proof that just because an important writer (“No Country for Old Men,” “The Road”) and a vaunted director (“Alien,” “Black Hawk Down,” “Thelma & Louise”) collaborate, it doesn’t mean the results will be remotely watchable.