108 : The Counselor, dir. Ridley Scott (2013)
director Ridley Scott is not the most consistent filmmaker, instead he is more akin to the likes of a horror or genre director that delivers explosive, genre-defining masterworks early in his career and then kind of floats by while paying the bills. His previous effort, Prometheus never surprised me, but felt satisfying for a famished, sci-fi fan. It’s difficult to utter: “where is Blade Runner”, “why isn’t this as moving as Alien”, because you know it was certainly a part of Scott’s past, but I guess some things are just meant to stay in there
The Counsoler depicts a dizzying tale of a wealthy lawyer, Michael Fassbender, as he succumbs to illogical amounts greed and plunges into the grizzly realm of drug trafficking. Alongside the nameless “Counsoler” is a wild-haired Javier Bardem, as the mild-minded playboy Reiner. Both Fassbender and Bardem are quite watchable throughout the movie, especially when sharing a drink and spouting slick stories about erotic escapades. The roots of Reiner and the Counsoler’s friendship is never revealed to the audience explicitly and it honestly comes as a surprise as Fassbender’s character eagerly becomes engaged to the pious and soft spoken Laura, Penélope Cruz. These three characters are far removed from the viciousness that the run red throughout the greater and later half of the film. This aloof mentality exacerbates any attempt of answering the “why” in this film as I kept echoing to myself, Why would The Counsoler risk his fortune, his Bentley, his prize fiancé to just grab an unfortunate wealth. Stupidity seems like the most logical explanation in this film, but it is an terribly large and exhausting pill to swallow.
Later in the film, The Counsoler meets a middle man by the name of Westray. Portrayed by Brad Pitt, Westray seems as though he would be able to communicate with Fassbender easiest, but his attitude and spacey proverbs prevent the audience from having any faith in him whatsoever. He always appears distant and immensely uninterested in the business of doing business. However, Pitt does bring up an interesting detail pertaining to “keeping up appearances”, as he relays the realities behind mexican cartels and their innate fearlessness from a culture that no longer respects death. He laughs while sharing a Heineken with The Counsoler, telling gruesome ghost stories of decapitations and snuff films.
Scott’s is an incredibly likable film, as The Counsoler exhibits a very unusual ability to depict some very brutal scenes quite artfully with sharp editing and a color palette that will leave cinephiles drooling. Equipped with star-studded cast, I felt safe knowing that each of the leads have had healthy dose of independent film aesthetics and mind-sets. However, It is odd that I, for some bizarre reason, thought this was going to be a cruise-control reprieve from the mundane thrillers that litter cinemas every summer.
But ultimately, the uncharacteristically wordy and constant excited state of Cormac McCarthy’s penning talents leave the viewer flying off towards twenty directions at once. For one, there are far too many characters to keep track of, too many chains of command, middle men, buyers, sellers, innocent bystanders, psychotic black widows and wealthy, international businessmen to take in at once. The film takes place is six different places, with variations of colors, languages and culture implications that the majority of the main cast does everything in their power to remove themselves from. The film does have a tremendous knack for drawing the viewer in with intensity and a especially memorable score, but just as easily, leaves us stranded and wanting more than the film wanted to offer. As I mentioned previously, the film is incredibly claustrophobic in the lines per minute department and ever line feels forced, insecure and hellbent on philosophically revealing every move in the film. The overwhelming presence of the obvious makes the audience feel as ignorant as the lead protagonist. Unfortunately, this is another film that has fell victim to overstocking of the cast, flaunting its own materialistic warts and casting an ugly motif pseudo-intellectual fortune cookie phrases in place of a script.