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: Skyfall

Daniel Craig’s James Bond and Sean Connery’s Aston Martin in Skyfall.

Bond without the Bond Girl, Cool Gadgets and Some Other Essentials

Rating: ***

Skyfall is an action film infused with dark elements that we’ve tirelessly seen in Christopher Nolan’s creations. Skyfall is also an homage to Sean Connery’s Bond films. I wrote in my review of Casino Royale that Daniel Craig physically resembles Connery. Both are lean fighting machines. However, Craig is more hardcore and in Skyfall, he has a sculpted torso, which none of the earlier Bonds possessed.

Knowing Sam Mendes, I expected Skyfall to be a dialogue-oriented film, and it plays along with dialogues coming from every end. The sad part is that Skyfall goes nowhere close to a Bond film. Countless Bond elements go missing and if you plan on seeing them later, you’ll be in for a wee bit of disappointment. This includes:

– The infamous Bond Girl

– Bond’s double entendre

– The cool gadgets from Q branch

– Q’s sense of humor – Ben Whishaw is nowhere close to the legendary Desmond Llewellyn or John Cleese

– The cool new car – Of course you get to see a cool old car

– The gun barrel sequence which is absent at the beginning of every Daniel Craig film

– The soon-to-die seductress who in this film fails to seduce (bad job Berenice Marlohe)

– “Vodka Martini, shaken not stirred” – What’s an homage without this line!

I was among the hundreds to cheer when the classic Sean Connery Aston Martin made its presence. That scene defined Bond’s love for his cars. There’s however a certain weakness in the screenplay, especially in the film’s third act. The film moves from one place to another, showing characters reveal their new identities with a lack of vigor. Sadly, there’s no better way to show the transition that Skyfall sets to its successors.

Javier Bardem’s antagonist is a mixture of Bane and Joker. The actor does his job, but you’ll be reminded of Batman’s two torturous antagonists now and then. And why are we portraying a hint of bisexuality in a James Bond film? Bond is a legendary chick magnet. Don’t ruin him for today’s youngsters. A similar thing happened in the comic book world and now, Green Lantern is gay (bad news Ryan Reynolds).

Naomie Harris portrays a field agent who we initially think will be the Bond Girl, but, the epilogue shows us who she really is. Ralph Fiennes plays Gareth Mallory, a man high up in the Intelligence and Security Committee, who along with Harris will fill in for another infamousĀ  character in the Bond universe.

If you thought Bond was young and suave, you’ll be shocked to see him greying. Skyfall pretends to be the last Bond film much like every other film, where he has to overcome the antagonist’s large army. But, Bond has become an invincible Charles Bronson character and he never fails to deliver. For Craig, Casino Royale was his defining film. Quantum of Solace was a power-packed action film, but failed to meet the expectations of a Bond film. Skyfall lies somewhere between these two films.

Skyfall creates a new platform for Bond 24, which I hope should release in 2014-15. I can’t wait 4 more years for the next Bond film.