By Laurie Coker

Rating: D+

I’ve grown tired of pointless plots and tired tales. Casting excellent actors in a film doesn’t matter when the stuff of the story flows with flaws, holes and inconsistencies. Ridley Scott’s latest showing, The Counselor, falls into this well-cast, aimless narrative category perfects. Having liked all but the ending of  No Country for Old Men,  also penned by Cormac McCarthy, I hoped for better, from both source and director, but got far less.

McCarthy, teams up  with Scott, and while exceptional stars Javier Bardem, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt and Penelope Cruz give impressive performances, they can’t save what amounts to little more than a ambiguous, meaningless, muddled mess. Shortly after proposing and marrying the love of his life, Laura (Cruz),  a lawyer, who everyone calls Counselor (Fassbender), finds himself in a horrific, untenable situation (because of greed), with literally no way out. His interaction with unusual and suspect people and the tedious travels of a lone sump truck make up the heart of the dark tale of drugs, deceit and death, and I use the term heart as if it actually has one.  It does not.

Except for Cameron Diaz, who feels and looks far out of her league aside this exceptional cast, the performances are mesmerizing, particularly Bardem and Fassbender. When the film focuses on interactions between the Counselor and Reiner (Bardem), it’s difficult not to try to find some greater purpose or theme, but there simply is none. Cruz, the remarkable beauty, steals scenes with her doey, dark soulful eyes and natural talent, but Diaz, even though her character is meant to be the polar opposite of Laura, can’t hold up next to the others. Her Malkina is meant to be exotic, foreign and mysterious and Diaz can’t carry an accent nor can she emote the necessary allure to warrant the balance of the cast. Even minor roles played by Rosie Perez, John Leguizamo and Rubén Blades outshine her efforts.

Such is the case with McCarthy’s tale. I say, what a sad waste of quality casting – seemingly for the sake of senseless deaths and sorted and seedy dealings. To his credit, Scott does offer a desperate and dismal tone and setting (El Paso, Texas and the bordering Mexican town of Juarez) to this dismal and desperate film, but nothing can make sense of the senseless, so I am placing a D+ in my grade book. Save it for rental or don’t see it at all.


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