Ridley Scott is a stylish director, and he swabs a glossy sheen over THE COUNSELOR that he then systematically destroys once he's in too deep. It's a punishing process that leaves the audience at the edge of their seats, but exhausted and a little confused, too. Crowded with personalities large and quite possibly deranged, The Counselor attacks the senses like a well-timed hit, but the comedown is harsh. Scott's a master at creating an overwhelming sense of foreboding, especially when violence is just around the corner, but it's nearly unrelenting and, as a result, fatigues. Without room to breathe, the audience can't appreciate the artistry.
Cormac McCarthy, who wrote the screenplay, lives in a bleak, depressing world, and draws fascinating, complicated characters that make you feel uncomfortable in your own skin. But his Counselor seems oddly naive for a lawyer who works in a challenging profession -- how many warnings does he need? -- and the dialogue, though displaying a wit and intelligence few scripts possess, seems better on paper than said and heard out loud. (They're spoken like finely honed paragraphs.) Also, we get too many hints of what lies ahead, as if Scott wanted to make sure we were paying attention. In the end, we are left with too many questions, one of which is central to the story: Why did the Counselor stray from his usual path? And this: Do we care enough to puzzle it out?