Review: The Counselor

Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender in Ridley Scott's The Counselor.
Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender in Ridley Scott’s The Counselor.

Thelma & Louise feels like a long time ago.
Rating: *

The Counselor is a blow to our senses. And our expectations. I certainly didn’t expect a shoddy two-hour motion picture from either Ridley Scott or screenwriter Cormac McCarthy.

Michael Fassbender plays the titular Counselor who gets in over his head, and indulges in a drug trade that involves a shady man called Reiner (Javier Bardem) even though another shady man named Westray (Brad Pitt) warns him not to. Phew!

This trade of course is defied by the brutal Mexican drug cartel, who have become a go-to nemesis in most crime films involving cocaine and gangs.

There seems to be a message in this film. Go down the bad path, and bad shit will happen to you.

Surely, there could have been an easier way of telling us that instead of making this incomprehensible mess. The Counselor, being a Ridley Scott film feels more like a Tony Scott film. There’s that slickness in editing and cinematography, that Ridley generally ignores, and Tony embraces. Sadly, the dialogue is nowhere close to either of their creations.

Screenwriter McCarthy has visited the wrong aisle in the library. Instead of taking dialogue that is as conventional as a Tarantino film, the monologues sound more like George Bernard Shaw or even Shakespeare. While explaining greed, one of the key characters, Malkina (Cameron Diaz in a nightmarish role) says:

“I suspect that we are ill-formed for the path we have chosen. Ill-formed and ill-prepared. We would like to draw a veil over all the blood and terror that have brought us to this place. It is our faintness of heart that would close our eyes to all of that, but in so doing it makes of it our destiny. But nothing is crueller than a coward, and the slaughter to come is probably beyond our imagining.”

Even when I was 100 minutes into the film, I thought Scott would pull away from the misery by adding one of two thrilling set pieces. None of which happens.


Review: Moneyball

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in Moneyball.

Pitt attempts a home run

Rating: ***

In Moneyball, Billy Beane (played by the emphatic Brad Pitt who is in need of an Oscar win) doesn’t make the Oakland Athletics, a World Series winner; he makes it a better team by bringing in valuable players who fit into the budget. As the opening text states, this film is all about managing a team which is worth around $40 million. Directed by Bennett Miller (Capote), Moneyball hails from the odd mix of screenwriters Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, who infuse a handful of characters and try to bring out a dramatic influence on the viewers.

If you were expecting Moneyball to be 2011’s Social Network, you’ll be disappointed. In that perspective, Moneyball is no Remember The Titans either. The film gloats on the fact that there are winning teams that can also be cheaper. As Beane states “There are rich teams and there are poor teams, then there’s fifty-feet of crap, and then there’s us.”

The film introduces us to Peter Brand, an imaginary character created on the lines of Paul DePodesta. Played by Jonah Hill, Brand is Sorkin’s character. Just like Mark Zuckerberg in Social Network, Peter Brand is your fast-talking analyst who brings along tacky one-liners that help if you’re looking for witty humor. After all, witty humor is all you can expect in a film written by Sorkin. Remember the Tom Cruise character’s humorous breaks in A Few Good Men?

Sorkin has added a few extra scenes to show Beane’s relationship with his ex-wife and daughter, who are introduced as the film’s dramatic structure. However, he doesn’t let them get involved in the storyline. He plays them like commercial breaks, not allowing the viewers to invest any interest in them.

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Coach Art Howe, who becomes Beane’s secondary antagonist. Hoffman plays his role aberrantly and devoid of clichés that Hollywood’s sports coaches usually have. Chris Pratt’s Scott Hatteberg is a lively portrayal of a baseball player who desperately sought for a second chance.

While the film doesn’t deem Beane and Brand as winners, it is revealed that their strategy helped Boston Red Sox win the 2004 World Series. But, isn’t that what the film is about? A winning strategy and not the men who made it happen?