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The Counselor: What?

October 26, 2013

Normally, when I walk home from the movie theater, I use that time to reflect on whatever I just saw. I think about how I felt about the film, what I think worked or didn’t work, how I felt about some technical choices that were made or how an actor fit their role. Sometimes, I’ll even go over certain important scenes or chunks of dialogue just so I’ll know to reference them when writing a review.

As I walked home from watching The Counselor however, I spent the extended walk home (I had to pick some things up at the store) simply trying to comprehend what I had just watched. Sadly not because I was sideswiped by brilliance. No, I was stuck in this vexing state because if this was a movie made by some terrible independent production company, it could very well end up in the ‘so bad its good category.’ That it has an all star cast, a well known and respectable director, and a famous (and until I saw this I would have said competent) writer makes the end result all the more mind boggling. This is a really fantastically shot and fantastically acted piece of crap.

Michael Fassbender plays The Counselor, a character who I didn’t realize was only referred to as the Counselor until the movie actually ended and the credits rolled. The Counselor is… a lawyer? I guess. I guess he must be a lawyer, and he is love with Penelope Cruz because well, she’s Penelope Cruz (I also didn’t know this character’s name till the credits rolled). The Counselor has gotten involved in some kind of drug dealing operation with Javier Bardem (didn’t know this character had a name till the credits, forgot to check what it was) for… well, he must have had some reason but I sure as Hell don’t know what it was.

This is when I started to realize that something was very wrong with this movie.

See, the film starts with Fassbender and Cruz in bed together being all cute and sexy at the same time. It’s sweet, and it establishes their characters and relationship in an interesting way. Then we sort of continue this in media res vibe by just leaping into these other characters and the principle crime involving a shipment of cocaine that the Counselor has invested in (I didn’t know you could invest in cocaine as a thing, but hey what do I know). The thing is that you start waiting for the exposition dump at some point. You want to know why he’s getting involved with this crime, why he apparently hasn’t become Javier Bardem’s criminal partner for two years, and exactly why everything goes belly up.

In a terrible twist, you never do.

You in fact never learn why any of the characters are doing anything. This whole movie occurs and we don’t actually know why it does. We know that there’s a shipment of cocaine, we know that it gets stolen, and then stolen back by its rightful owners. We know that the rightful owners suspect the Counselor and his associates are behind why it was stolen the first time because of a coincidence that I swear never gets confirmed (concerning a motorcyclist). Therefore Brad Pitt (by the way Brad Pitt is in this movie and no I don’t remember his character’s name either) flees the country with his money, leaving Bardem and Fassbender to take the heat so to speak.

Throughout the film, we realize that Cameron Diaz (whose character’s name is Malinka, one I only remembered because it sounded so strange to my ears and is the only one spoken more than once) is behind the initial cocaine theft. However, she doesn’t seem particularly interested in retrieving the cocaine, which I thought was kind of strange since she went to the effort to get it and roughly four or five people die as a result. At the end of the film she steals all of Brad Pitt’s money by killing him with a weird device Javier Bardem talks about to Fassbender at the beginning.

The film then concludes with Diaz going on some rambling diatribe about watching her pet cheetahs kill jackrabbits in Mexico and how this makes them pure or beautiful or… something. She then mentions that she likes this because it essentially gets her off. Her character had lots of weird sex stuff going on though so I guess that’s not that strange, minus the fact that all we know about her character is weird sex stuff and uh… oh, right.

So why did she steal the money? How did she even know about it? Why concoct this ludicrous scheme just to get it? Why didn’t she care about the cocaine getting stolen back by the Cartel? Why does the Cartel even need to make use of Bardem and Fassbender? Why do Bardem and Fassbender need Pitt to talk to the Cartel for them? Does he actually facilitate the deal? Why does the Sheriff’s Office of Midland, Texas not flip a shit and try to hunt her down when she apparently calls them up to ask about the bodies found around where the cocaine truck was stolen back by the Cartel? Especially when one of those dead bodies was someone pretending to be a Midland Sheriff?

All of these (and many more) are great questions. Great questions this movie never answers.

It is visually stunning at times, or at least well composed, and Fassbender really makes us care about a character who lacks motivation and therefore is less than a stock psychopath. Overall though, many scenes are nonsensical, it is terribly paced, there are monologues that sound important that mean nothing, and you will find yourself continuously wondering whether or not you’re supposed to actually care.

I thought about walking out about half an hour in and regret my decision to stay.

 

Below, I’m going to talk about the most nonsensical yet best scene in the whole movie. There is no nitpicking of this movie because there’s nothing to say. It is bad. End of discussion.

 

 

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Alright, so there’s one scene in this movie that is worth watching. In fact, I won’t be surprised if it’s not already making the rounds on Youtube. I don’t fully understand why this scene occurs, but that could be said about the majority of the film so it’s not surprising. I will even say that I don’t think any of the actors know why this scene was happening. I also don’t understand where it is even set.

See Fassbender and Bardem are in… I’m not sure if it’s one of Bardem’s strip clubs or restaurants. There are tables, and a bar but they go into a backroom where there are more tables (set for dinner), but there’s an area in the back of the room that looks like a household kitchen and there’s a pitcher of… lemonade? White Sangria?

I don’t know why but I assumed lemonade, which struck me as a strange drink to pour into huge red wine glasses. It’s important to note that Fassbender doesn’t take his glass. Bardem pours two glasses; we see him put ice in two glasses, cut up two little lemon wedges, and pour two glasses. Yet, Michael Fassbender apparently hates lemonade.

You can see the glass in the background of the shot, over Bardem’s shoulder, just sitting there with a lemon wedge on its rim. I assume Bardem was offended that Fassbender didn’t trust him not to roofie him.

Anyway, the two men are chit-chatting about… well I can’t really remember what the lead up to the story is, but I assume it has to do with their criminal enterprises or their non-criminal enterprises. Bardem sits at a table, while Fassbender leans against a classic motorcycle that is sitting on top of some kind of display pedestal (like at a museum or in a showroom but ya know in this restaurant/private dining room in a strip club/whatever). Bardem launches into the discussion of when he saw Malinka (Diaz, this scene is also why you remember her name cause it’s said like a dozen times) fucked his car.

Interspersed with the two of them just standing around talking about car-fucking like it’s the most normal thing in the world, is a scene showing the deed itself. Yes, you get to watch (with Javier Bardem’s voice over) a perplexed Bardem gawk at Cameron Diaz as she takes off her panties, mount the hood of a car, do a split on the windshield, and stimulate herself against said windshield.

I don’t know why it happens.

It never comes up again in the whole movie.

It is hilarious.

The scene just ends with Bardem saying he doesn’t know why he told Fassbender this, which makes a lot of sense because I don’t know why I have this information either. There’s a strong part of me that wonders if Javier Bardem literally just ad libbed the whole thing while Fassbender stood there out of character, and they happened to have just caught it on film. That would make sense though it wouldn’t explain why it is in the movie.

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