Ridley Scott's The Counsellor is one of his bravest films, a bleak look into the crime underworld without any moral filter. Is it a great film? No, but it's daring in ways that many Hollywood movies aren't. We finally get Cormac McCarthy's first original screenplay, if you can even call it that, onto the big screen and it plays out more like a novel than a film. The movie doesn't so much focus on plot as much as it does on story. What's the story? Well it's complex, but at the end of the day it is basically your generic movie criminal characters in way over their way, except here they all get what's coming to them, whether they are protagonists or not. No matter how pretty or likeable they are, they're gonna get it, and they're gonna get it rough. The Counsellor does not flinch away from the true brutality of the underworld. There is a harrowing scene involving a DVD, which portrays no on screen violence that will make audiences stomach churn.
Where the movie falls short is McCarthy's screenplay, which doesn't do the audience any favours in helping them follow any form of narrative. The dialogue is too cryptic and winding for the viewer to fathom while being entertained at the same time. Might make sense on paper, but not on the big screen. The plot doesn't really begin until an unfortunate bike ride. This little mess helps propel the film and forces it's characters to act. Until this moment there is a tedious and complex build up, which is only satisfactory because of Bardem's charming charisma. I enjoyed all of the performances for the most part, but spewing out McCarthy's long-winded dialogue didn't help them. Cameron Diaz was ice cold as Malkina and looked great, reminding me of Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction (1994), but seemed to be confused speaking the words, coming off like a Beverly Hills bimbo attempting to read Shakespeare, or in this case Dr. Seuss.
This movie has been blasted on all fronts, and a many of it's criticisms may be correct, but I admire it's boldness and Scott's and the actors' willingness to take a chance. In conclusion, I found The Counsellor to be a very interesting movie, a dark morality play that takes a risk in conveying audiences the stark reality of the cartel business.