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The Counselor @Empire Cinema

Central London can be pretty gritty on a weekend night, but the combined experience of Empire and The Counselor take you to a new level of ‘yuck’ . We do not recommend!

By Cristiana Moisescu, BA Politics

The counselor (Michael Fassbender) and drug lord (Javier Bardem) in a psychedelic setting.
The counselor (Michael Fassbender) and drug lord (Javier Bardem) in a psychedelic setting. Source: Sony

This is the worst movie I have ever seen. To make matters worse, however, Empire Cinema is also probably the worst cinema I’ve ever been in ‑ and this coming from someone who’s seen movies in old, dilapidated, Communist-era cinemas, back in 90s Romania. Let me tell you, this doesn’t even come close. On a Friday night, when Leicester Square becomes one big moving crowd, Empire Cinema is mostly deserted. The better word for it, however, is seedy. The carpets, sofas, people, everything looks like poorly mismatched props from a B-movie,  dumped unceremoniously in a central London building. The prices, on the other hand, do very much belong in central London – between £9.95 and £11.95 for a student ticket, and £6.50 for a vat of popcorn. To round up the picture, you have the obligatory half-hour of ads before each screening and tourists loudly talking throughout the movie. Then again, maybe it was all a clever stunt designed to prepare us for ‘The Counselor’ – another seedy, over-hyped, crazy experience.

This movie creates such high expectations through its high-credit cast and director (Ridley Scott) that you spend half of it hoping against hope that maybe there’s something to it, and the other half embracing its ridiculousness and laughing your head off. The room was in stitches for some of its most cringing moments and as far as I could tell, experienced no other emotions whatsoever – just like the characters on screen, although they were trying. Essentially, this is a movie about a drug deal gone bad, which starts in Juarez, Mexico, and ends  in London’s financial district. There are two things driving the action: sex and money, dirty, filthy rich money, and one feels a lot of nastiness hiding between the gritty worlds the characters inhabit. You have the classic money-cars-sex-gruesome murders axis, plus a couple of cheetahs thrown in for good fun. You have two show-stopping leading ladies, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz, and three leading men, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Javier Bardem. You’d think that’s a foolproof recipe, right? Well, you’d be wrong.

While the cast is great and the film editing done beautifully, the script, written by Cormac McCarthy, sadly makes you cringe, line after line, with underdeveloped and stereotypical characters (the drug lord, the slut, the counselor, the fixer, the ingénue), and the actual plot of the movie is very hard to follow – I left the cinema knowing the basics, sure, but there are still scenes which completely elude me. The acting was over the top, trying to give some depth to a script that was, essentially, full of clichés and sexist beyond belief. The ‘best’ scene? Cameron Diaz dry-humping a windshield. And yes, that’s exactly what you think it is. Not only was it a pointless, sexist, gratuitous scene, it was also unbelievably, ridiculously crazy – the kind that could easily win ‘Worst scene of the year’ … every year!

Ultimately, ‘The Counselor’ falls into the trap of trying to be too many things at once – drama and action movie combo, all packed in with a great cast. It shows too much with not enough room, with scenes which seem disconnected from each other, and the audience doesn’t have enough time to relate to the characters in order to get either the thrills of an action movie, or the empathy of a drama – and so the movie fails at both.  


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