Fair (1.5 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality, graphic violence and grisly images
Running time: 111 minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
It’s easy to see why this crime thriller got greenlit by Hollywood. First of all, it was written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Cormac McCarthy whose relatively-riveting “No Country for Old Men” won four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Secondly, Oscar-nominated director Ridley Scott (for Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Thelma & Louise) was brought aboard, as well as an A-list cast topped by Academy Award-winners Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, nominees Brad Pitt and Rosie Perez, and versatile character actors Michael Fassbender and Goran Visnjic.
Furthermore, since the story is set in Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas, it made sense to sign several leading Latino thespians in Cameron Diaz, Edgar Ramirez, John Leguizamo and Ruben Blades. Nevertheless, The “Counselor” turned out to be one of those curious head scratchers that somehow adds up to way less than the sum of its parts.
The film is crippled primarily by a pair of fatal flaws, namely, a glacial pace and a talky script laced with awkward dialogue. For, while it waits for something, anything of consequence to transpire, the audience is force fed lots of inexplicably stilted lines like, “You are a man of impeccable taste” and “I intend to love you ‘til the day I die.”
Worse, these corny quips are generally delivered with so little conviction that you never know whether you’re supposed to laugh or take them seriously. The actors’ inscrutably-flat affect invariably comes off as tongue-in-cheek impersonations of characters right out of a typical Damon Runyon yarn.
The picture’s farfetched plot revolves around a nameless lawyer, referred to only as “The Counselor” (Fassbender), a guy whose greed is getting the better of him. At the point of departure, we find the avaricious attorney head-over-heels in love with Laura (Cruz), an exotic beauty he plans to propose to with an expensive diamond ring he can’t really afford.
For reasons that never quite make sense, this man of few words soon seeks to supplement his income by getting mixed up in a dangerous Mexican drug trade known for its ever-escalating body count. He’s offered a start in the business by Reiner (Bardem), a flamboyant dealer with a flashier girlfriend (Diaz).
Ignoring repeated warnings from a low-key middleman (Pitt) that entering the narcotics underworld is akin to stepping in quicksand, the Counselor decides that the extra cash is worth a one-time risk. The game plan is to deliver a sewage truck with over 20,000 ounces of coke across the border and North to Chicago in return for a big payday.
But the pivotal question remains: will he be able to avoid becoming a statistic in a bloody turf war where ruthless gangs don’t give a second thought about beheading a rival? A highly-stylized borefest featuring blasé individuals overindulging in gratuitous violence and a coarse brand of casual sensuality.