Here is a man known to his business contacts as the Counselor (Michael Fassbender), and he has been facilitating many a deal recently but never gets his hands dirty, keeping a safe distance from the less savoury implications and indeed participants he might otherwise have had to mix with. He travels the world in this capacity, but in Europe there is a certain someone he has lost his heart to: Laura (Penélope Cruz), who he wishes to marry and settle down with, believing she is the woman for him. He hasn't told her yet, but visits a diamond dealer (Bruno Ganz) to purchase just the right gemstone for the engagement ring: as with everything in his life, it has to be done with perfection and control. However, he doesn't bank on his relationship with businessman Reiner (Javier Bardem)...
Or rather, Reiner's relationship with his own girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz), who is conniving to say the least, in a film which in spite of these stars - and Brad Pitt was in there as well - utterly flopped on its release, the recipient of some of the worst reviews and worst audience reactions of its year. For a movie directed by Ridley Scott, just coming off the extremely divisive Prometheus debacle of internet hostility fame, and drawn from the first script written expressly for the screen by the much-respected author Cormac McCarthy, this was regarded as a serious misstep, even a major embarrassment, with many pointing out where they thought it went wrong, usually in sequences that were either too absurd or too downright chatty.
So the consensus was The Counselor was a poor effort all round, but then, as is often the case, there were a few voices in the wilderness piping up that actually they quite enjoyed it, and others insisting it was some kind of masterpiece of tremendous philosophical resonance. Well, that was overstating it, but if you took the experience as enjoyable for the reasons others took against it, you might begin to warm to a film that was as ridiculous as the opponents said, yet that was why it was amusing. The scene everyone who hated this held up as an example of its worthlessness was a flashback told as an anecdote where Malkina is presented as a dangerous loose cannon by dint of her rampant, animal sexuality (with the tattoos and pets to prove it); to demonstrate, she has sex with a fancy sports car.
Reiner describes the sight of her privates squished up against the glass as gynaecological and Scott showed commendable restraint in not giving the audience an eyeful, but we did see Cameron Diaz, legs akimbo, giving her all to this flash motor, which was so laughable that it illustrated the lengths McCarthy was willing to go to shake up the drugs gangsters subgenre of thrillers, one which was rarely known for playing down its excesses. Yet oddly along with these over the top elements, he also included many an involved conversation, inviting the viewer to relish his dialogue delivered by movie stars in sleekly glamourous locations. Now, he wasn't prepared to make it wholly crystal clear what those conversations were about, and it was all too possible to sit through The Counselor without a clue why anything was happening.
Then again, there are those who can read an entire novel of McCarthy's typically dense prose and emerge the other side none the wiser, though feeling they had been through something significant nonetheless, so it was probably better to watch this on a scene by scene basis, enjoying its - let's face it - rather daft qualities which made it distinctive. It could be that mainstream audience were becoming more conservative than ever and not prepared to have a story fail to spell itself out, but in light of some very staid and dull Scott productions littering the latter half of his career, it was genuinely entertaining to watch something where he took big chances, risked falling flat on his face artistically, but created a work marching to the beat of its own drum. With such lunacies as a motorised device designed to cut off the victim's head you find yourself guessing who will suffer that fate, along with the threat of a snuff movie demise for someone else, the theme of accepting your impending doom in a corrupt, amoral world was not exactly original, but this was a new way of telling it. Music by Daniel Pemberton.
Talented, prolific British director whose background in set design and advertising always brings a stylised, visually stunning sheen to often mainstream projects. Scott made his debut in 1977 with the unusual The Duellists, but it was with his next two films - now-classic sci-fi thrillers Alien and Blade Runner - that he really made his mark. Slick fantasy Legend and excellent thriller Someone to Watch Over Me followed, while Thelma and Louise proved one of the most talked-about films of 1991. However, his subsequent movies - the mega-budget flop 1492, GI Jane and the hopeless White Squall failed to satisfy critics or find audiences.
Scott bounced back to the A-list in 2000 with the Oscar-winning epic Gladiator, and since then has had big hits with uneven Hannibal, savage war drama Black Hawk Down and his Robin Hood update. Prometheus, tentatively sold as a spin-off from Alien, created a huge buzz in 2012, then a lot of indignation. His Cormac McCarthy-penned thriller The Counselor didn't even get the buzz, flopping badly then turning cult movie. Exodus: Gods and Kings was a controversial Biblical epic, but a success at the box office, as was sci-fi survival tale The Martian. Alien Covenant was the second in his sci-fi prequel trilogy, but did not go down well with fans. Brother to the more commercial, less cerebral Tony Scott.