With so much talent in front of and behind the camera, The Counselor should have been something more. With a script from author Cormac McCarthy (in his first original screenplay) and director Ridley Scott at the helm, it had the potential to be a hit thriller and potential Oscar contender similar to 2007’s No Country for Old Men. What we get instead is a film that feels so sporadically entertaining that it causes one to question whether the film was helmed by three, maybe four, different uncredited directors. Despite some great performances and a handful of great scenes, there is very little in the film to be impressed with. While it is far from the worst film of the year, it is almost certainly one of the most disappointing.

Michael Fassbender stars as The Counselor, a lawyer who has just recently become engaged to the love of his life Laura (Penelope Cruz). He soon gets involved with drug kingpin Reiner (Javier Bardem), Reiner’s hypersexual girlfriend, Malkina (Cameron Diaz) and middleman Westray (Brad Pitt). They begin to develop a deal that involves the trafficking of drugs into the United States. But their plan hits an unexpected snag, putting everyone’s life at risk.

There is a good film buried somewhere in The Counselor, but it is hampered by too much dull chit-chat, poor pacing and an almost useless first half. The film feels bloated and far too long, most likely due to the fact that events are not set into motion until halfway through the film. For nearly an hour we are forced to sit and watch underdeveloped characters gossip about useless anecdotes that pertain to the differences between men and women. Saying that these scenes feel similar to a weak romance isn’t too far off.

Once things start happening (and trust me, it takes a LONG time) the movie becomes much more entertaining, thanks mostly to director Ridley Scott. It can be difficult to work from a weak script, and Scott does the best he can with the material. A desert shootout that occurs halfway through the movie feels like a breath of fresh air and the death of a particular character towards the end of the film is equally entertaining and horrifying.

The cast mostly does an admirable job at portraying their weak characters, but some are much better than others. Michael Fassbender gives the solid lead performance that this film needed, doing the best with what was written as a fairly one-dimensional character. Brad Pitt and Penelope Cruz do a fine job, but it is Javier Bardem who gives the standout performance here. Reiner is without a doubt the most interesting character of the bunch and Bardem steals every scene that he is in. An anecdote involving Reiner, Malkina and a yellow Ferrari could have been ridiculous, but Bardem nails the delivery, making the scene a hilarious high in an otherwise bleak, bleak film. The weakest link in the cast is Cameron Diaz who feels a bit out of her element here. Much of her delivery feels unnatural and some of her character’s actions in the latter half of the film are unconvincing.

With an unoriginal story, The Counselor thinks that it is much smarter than it actually is. Perhaps Cormac McCarthy should stick to writing novels because the screenplay is one of the weakest aspects of the film. Despite some great performances and a few solid scenes, there is nothing particularly entertaining about the film. The Counselor had the potential to be one of the best films of the year, but the finished product can’t help but feel like a chore to sit through.

The Counselor receives 2/4