It’s probably fair to say that Ridley Scott’s most recent efforts haven’t been his best. He tried to recreate his Gladiator glory by delving into the past with Robin Hood, and attempted to milk Alien by journeying into the future with Prometheus. Now he returns to the present day in pulpy thriller The Counselor. Is it a much needed return to form?
No. Very little works here, least of all the plot – a lawyer (Michael Fassbender) gets involved in drug trafficking in order to pay for a big diamond engagement ring for his girlfriend (Penélope Cruz). But he’s clearly wealthy, so why doesn’t he just buy a slightly more affordable ring? It seems like a stupid reason to become embroiled in drug crime. So straight away, the film doesn’t make sense.
It then proceeds to make even less sense thanks to the screenplay – the first by novelist Cormac McCarthy, who uses the characters as unlikeable, two-dimensional mouthpieces for pseudo-profundity. This is a rare case of under-exposition, with everyone talking exclusively in abstract mantras. To quote Fassbender’s character: “Why are you telling me this?”
Straddling all this is an immature desire to shock. Gratuitous moments of violence and sex – including one already notorious scene involving Cameron Diaz – feel out of place and laughable. And talking of Diaz, according to Digital Spy she had to redub her dialogue “because she sounded too much like Rihanna.” She is good though, as are Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt and Javier Bardem – the king of crazy hairstyles. This may be his best one yet, and not just because it’s the same as mine.
There’s also a lovely pair of cheetahs, one good gunfight and a brief appearance from Barbara Durkin AKA the mum from My Parents Are Aliens and Susan from I’m Alan Partridge. Otherwise this is a pretentious mess of a film which makes about as much sense as Prometheus, making Ridley Scott’s last few movies a treble whammy of disappointment.