With its story arteries clogged by ponderous dialog, Counselor meanders around with flaunted hyper intelligence, often only understood by the characters of its unhinged world. Sexually fierce and grossly molded around Mexican drug trafficking, the often brilliant writer Cormac McCarthy’s self indulgent scripting odyssey exists to house Michael Fassbender’s crumbling character psyche.
Fassbender is Counselor, a lawyer of luxury who pools his money for a stake in a cross border narcotics run. Paired minimally with Westray (Brad Pitt), engaged to Laura (Penelope Cruz), and locked into the deal with Reiner (Javier Bardem), Counselor spreads a show of opulence between these often carnivorous financiers.
Coupled with purposefully crude sex acts are an endless punch of metaphorical jargon which begins to collapse this frail narrative structure. No one in this fetish driven philosophical muck speaks directly to each other. Counselor’s reliance on McCarthy’s subversiveness is criminal considering how outmoded some plot developments are. The film is an extension of his novel work, ill plotted for screen presentation.
Presented in a theatrical or excruciating unrated edition, Counselor is splattered by an untested trust in the man who crafted No Country for Old Men in either screening instance – only one extends the suffering for a further 20 minutes.
Director Ridley Scott pairs with cinematographer Dariusz Wolski for an atypically beautiful feature considering central themes. Drugs are passed through borders in sealed containers, sloshing around inside of a septic truck which is somehow gifted with a visual class. Actors are presented with an appropriate intensity or softness dependent on the needs of the given scene. While they interpret flaunted and stretched dialog, at least this cast is given the benefit of substantial clarity.
Scott’s set pieces feel mismanaged, grafted with a sterling level of realism while the banter which brings them into existence is unwieldy. The world of Counselor builds scenes in an artificial reality for the sake of lost secondary purpose. Refreshing as this film is in pushing away from generations of ADD-based editing and movement, it may be the contemporary cause of the condition. Counselor invites distractions of glowing screens as it aimlessly panders to a narrow subset of the movie going audience who will lap it out under the guise of cinematic sophistication.
Color corrected to mood and style, Counselor carries thematic shifts in timing. From resolved blues to stench filled yellows, variations are frequent. Flesh tones follow these shifting hues, with a cooler magenta push and sweltering oranges. The film’s theatrical poster offers five images, each carrying dramatic, unmistakable hues. Consider the poster authentic advertising.
As a piece of digitally shot filmmaking, inconsistencies run through most of the feature, none related to Fox’s encoding work. Black levels wander off into heavy gray, pushing away from stout black levels which are more common. Contrast is either blasted from Mexican sun or clouded by Amsterdam interiors. Again, a drifting look is imperative to set distinctive moods.
Impeccable sharpness will find a welcome home, including striking images of deserts or other landscapes. Minor mountain ranges are displayed with tremendous definition, resolution shared by close-ups with appreciable frequency. A digital bug will bite on occasion, inserting a barrenness to faces – even a touch of smearing.
With those exceptions accounted for, Counselor is a dominating disc visually. Cinematography is stunning, creating a delectable translation to home media.
Opening with a split dialog sequence into the right front creates an expectation of a wide sound scape, and instead this DTS-HD mix sinks itself into the center. Outside of a roadside shoot out with bullets bouncing between speakers into an almost trance like audio dance, Counselor is frequently locked to one channel and effectively so considering this material. Enjoy some vehicle pans between rounds of chatter before this disc settles for good.
Help comes from subwoofer assistance, blasting low end material in clubs or as the score requests. The throbbing effect is fierce, particularly close to the death of a key character near the end moments. A touch of ambiance outside of the LFE inclusion is noted, if dry.
Two discs are offered, one with the theatrical cut, the other hosting the unrated version. Theatrical viewers get viral pieces, small mini-film snippets which fill in background information on certain characters.
The second disc exists for Truth of the Situation, bundling a drifting Ridley Scott commentary with 13 featurettes embedded into the film. Material runs over an hour, elaborating on the concepts, ideas, and purposes of each scene. If you were confused, this is needed clarification even if it does not salvage the film.
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