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‘The Counselor’ Is A Hot Faux-Noir Mess

'The Counselor' Is A Hot Faux-Noir Mess

First of all, ‘The Counselor’ isn’t the worst movie ever made. That would be ‘Shanghai Surprise’ or whatever the most recent Madonna movie is.  It may be the most disappointing one, however, with talents like Ridley Scott directing, Cormac McCarthy writing and Today’s Hottest Stars mostly wasted in this weirdo sunbaked noir.

Near the beginning of the movie, there’s a scene where Cameron Diaz and Javier Bardem watch a cheetah chasing a rabbit. The vision is so surreal that we expect the camera to pull back and reveal that they are directors shooting a movie. Unfortunately the camera never pulls back, and the audience is left with an uneasy feeling that the movie they are watching isn’t the real movie, it’s a “movie.” And the characters are “characters.” It becomes difficult to lose oneself in the story when you are constantly waiting for The Big Reveal, when the director at last lets you in on the secret – It Was All a Dream! Or it’s a Movie within a Movie!  Which SPOILER ALERT never happens in this film. And that’s why the critics hate this movie so much.

The whole movie is an odd duck. On one level, it looks like a big budget version of one of those late-night Skinemax “erotic thrillers” from the Miami Vice – Adrian Lyne era. Every drug dealer lives in an Architectural Digest palace. Every attorney has beautiful white-on-white interior design. Every car is a Ferrari. But instead of soft-core sex and car chases, we get bizarre monologues on the nature of diamonds, or women, or grief.  The actors seem to have difficulty wrapping their mouths around these monologues, but Javier Bardem at least has fun with it, hamming it up like Robert Downey Jr. circa “Less than Zero.”  The same can’t be said for Cameron Diaz, who turns in a bizarrely mannered performance as a conniving drug moll.  And Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt star in this movie, because they are in every movie currently in theaters.

On a strictly narrative level, the movie is basically a drug-score-gone-bad film and proceeds with the inevitability of a noir film. Once Michael Fassbender goes forth to meet his doom the film actually becomes engaging for about half an hour or so, until Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt come back on screen. Genuinely talented actors like John Leguizamo and Natalie Dormer pop up in the last five minutes of this movie, for no other reason than because the filmmakers haven’t shoveled enough frustration in your direction for two hours, and they have one last trick to play.

I give this movie three severed heads.

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  • Thurb

    While I admit that I liked Bad Teacher far more then I should have, that is an exception. Anyway when I hear “Cameron Diaz has sex with a car”, I’m out before entering the theater. I would not even have taken the hit for your readers if I had been you. Kudos, sir. I hope you are able to forget this soon…

  • Gummo

    But instead of soft-core sex and car chases, we get bizarre monologues on the nature of diamonds, or women, or grief. Too bad. Soft-core sex and car chases provide cover for a lot of cinematic ills.This movie sounds so affected, it should have had Johnny Depp in it.

  • Tlazolteotl, Bitter Darkness

    So when are you going to review a movie that might be worth my hard-earned moolah to see?

    • Movies you want to see: 12 Years a Slave, Captain Phillips, Gravity. You’re welcome!

  • Cathy

    Hey, Willie Brown (of SF and Sacramento fame) recommended this film highly. I am inclined to believe the King of California.