Movie review: Heavy hitters can’t save ‘The Counselor’

FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAMOctober 25, 2013 

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Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender: “Dude, you’ll never understand what it is like to look like this.”

  • THE COUNSELOR

    1/2

    Rated: R for graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content and language. Starring: Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt. Director: Ridley Scott. Running time: 117 minutes. Theaters: Edwards 22 and Edwards 9 in Boise, Edwards 14 and Edwards 12 in Nampa, Majestic 18 and Village Cinema in Meridian.

Some studio execs must have thought they’d died and gone to Hollywood heaven.

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, heck, even one that makes much sense. Rarely has so much effort and star power been expended with so little result.

The ubiquitous Michael Fassbender is an El Paso lawyer who is always simply addressed as Counselor. This Man With No Name seems to lead a charmed life with a sexy fiancee, Laura (an underutilized 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 — financial concerns are vaguely referred to — Counselor decides to get involved in the illicit cross-border drug trade through his club-owner friend Reiner (an oddly coiffed Javier Bardem) and one of Reiner’s contacts, Westray (Brad Pitt).

Of course, this decision backfires after the murder of a courier for which the cartels blame Counselor.

There’s little suspense or any sense of tension, even though Fassbinder 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.

Those sounds you hear are the sighs of relief from Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake. “Runner Runner” is no longer 2013’s worst thriller.

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