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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Dean Norris

The Book of Henry (2017)

And what an odd book that is.

Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) is a lot like every other 11-year-old-kid out there in the world. He’s awkward, a little weird, sometimes quiet, nice, sweet, and oh yeah, brilliant-as-hell. In fact, he’s maybe a bit too smart for his own good and at times, that finds him not just getting into trouble with people who could possibly be his friend, but even his own family. Although, both his mother, Susan (Naomi Watts), and little brother, Peter (Jacob Tremblay), love him immensely, they also know that he can be a bit much. They also know that his brain is so huge, with such an insane amount of knowledge, that they actually use it to their advantage; her, for help on the stocks and how to save money, and him, for emotional support through these rough times of growing up. But something changes in all of their lives that not only affects Henry especially, but all the other people around them, leaving the family to make some drastic, almost disastrous decisions.

If you thought one annoying precocious kid was bad enough……

A part of me wants to absolutely and totally annihilate the Book of Henry for being a ridiculously messy, uneven, weird, sometimes way-too-stupid-for-its-own-good take movie about growing up, learning who you are, death, and oh yeah, child-abuse, or more importantly, rape. However, there is another part of me that wants to praise it and, at the very, absolute least, respect it for going all-out on a plot that could have been absolutely cookie-cutter and derivative of everything we’ve ever seen done before and taking risks, chances, and certain unpredictable roads, even if yeah, they don’t quite work out. But then, there’s that middle part of me that doesn’t know what to think, say, or hell, even believe in.

After all, if a movie as muddled and as nutty as the Book of Henry can, for at least an-hour-and-a-half, entertain me and sort of surprise me, yet, at the same time, still feel way too weird, than what’s that say about me? I do like bad movies? Do I give them a pass just because they try something different? Or, am I just too broken down and beaten-up by the everyday, conventional blockbusters that are pushed in front of my face that, when something comes to me, from someone, somewhere, regardless of how messy it is, still makes me think and expect something different, that I just have to accept it for what it is and yeah, possibly even like it?

Once again, I don’t know what to think.

A movie like the Book of Henry is challenging. Not because it’s an altogether deeply confusing, or hell, even psychological movie, but more that it’s the kind of movie that doesn’t know what to make of itself so, as a result, the viewer is left with the same feeling. Director Colin Trevorrow, after breaking all sorts of records with Jurassic World two years ago, seems to have gotten carpe diem for the Book of Henry and in a way, is allowed to make this movie as crazy and as weird as he wants. Screenwriter Gregg Hurwitz does deserve some credit for trying something new and, dare I say it, intriguing with the YA genre of films, but even he, at certain points, seems like he’s losing all control.

Which is to say that the Book of Henry, in all honesty, isn’t a good movie; it’s tone is so over-the-place, with a plot that continues to get wackier and wackier, and a silly twist that happens midway through, it’s just not that easy to say it totally works out. If anything, it misses the ball, more than it actually connects with it and because of that, it’s hard to fully recommend this movie to anyone, or hell, even for myself.

…try two!

But like I said, it’s definitely an original. Whether or not that originality works out for itself, or bites its own ass in the end, is a whole other matter to decide on. But Hurwitz and Trevorrow clearly try to make this work as much as they can; Trevorrow constantly keeps the plot moving and Hurwitz, while mostly getting stuck with idiotic lines for precocious 11-year-olds only seen and/or conceived in movies, does try and juggle some things that you’d never expect one to do, yet, sort of respect.

But yeah, like I said, the movie’s just sort of all-over-the-place.

For some reason, however, it still kept me watching. Every opportunity it had to bother me and piss me off to the highest of the heavens, it still brought me back in with trying to figure itself out and go somewhere I did not at all expect it to. It’s the kind of movie that takes some many odd chances on telling its story, seeing just where the hell it can go, stepping back, and eventually, just throwing everything at the wall, that it’s much more interesting to watch than, well, actually entertaining. But hey, if having your mind stimulated while watching big-budgeted movies is entertaining to you, then hell yeah, you’re going to probably the enjoy the hell out of the Book of Henry.

But then again, probably not. I myself am still not sure. And I just reviewed it.

I think.

Consensus: By taking so many risks that so few little movies of its magnitude and well, budget, actually do nowadays, the Book of Henry deserves some kudos for going out on a limb and trying something new, even if it just never coheres together well. Like, at all. So yeah, it’s a mess.

5.5 / 10

And a middle-class, waitress mom who spends her leisurely time playing, guess this, video-games! Naomi Watts, ladies and gentlemen!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Fist Fight (2017)

Honestly, I myself would have just wanted to brawl with one of my teachers.

It’s the last day of school, and for most people, they’re just worried about getting pranked and having to remember the shame for the rest of the summer. But for Andy (Charlie Day), he’s just worried about getting his ass kicked or not. See, it all started when Andy ran into Ron (Ice Cube), the history teacher who is a bit of a hot-head and not the nicest guy around, and accidentally ratted him out to the principal (Dean Norris) for doing something extremely bad. Ron doesn’t like snitches, so he challenges Andy to a brawl, in the parking-lot, right after school. Everyone hears about it, which leads to many people getting in Andy’s head, messing with him, and driving him even further to madness than ever before. Which is an issue for Andy, especially on a day like this, where he actually has to be at his daughter’s talent show by the end of the day and, you know, not worrying about getting his ass kicked.

Don’t look, Charlie. He’s about to quote an two-decade’s old NWA song.

There’s something to be said for most mainstream comedies out there in the world today that feel as if they were written with a paintbrush. Most of them just have a plot, have a few characters, and other broad spectrum of the story, but for the most part, don’t really have much else filled. It’s almost as if they’re just written for the sake of being written, so that big stars can sign onto them and the projects can get funding, made, and released to the world to see.

What happens in between, honestly, is all up in the air and made up on the spot, and that’s feel like what happens with Fist Fight, another studio comedy that relies heavily on improv, but ultimately, doesn’t have that many jokes to sustain its already overlong run-time and premise. That said, there is some humor to be found, which is mostly always the case when you have reliable comedy talents in it like Charlie Day, Tracy Morgan, Ice Cube, Jillian Bell, and, uh, Christina Hendricks? Believe it or not, everyone’s pretty funny here and adds a few zingers every so often to make it seem like the movie isn’t just one lame joke, over and over again.

That’s typically the case with improv: Some of it is good, some of it isn’t. But most of it is, and can be, entertaining to watch.

“Something, something, drugs. AHAHA!”

That said, Fist Fight also feels like the kind of comedy where there isn’t all that much else to it, except funny people, playing around, collecting a paycheck, and trying to make the most of it. It’s not even that it feels soulless, as much as it just feels a bit boring, because you know that there’s really nothing in this that makes these talents want to work their hardest and best; Bell is a perfect example of this, as she literally starts off the movie, saying that she wants to bang a student, but that she’s also on meth. Sure, Jillian Bell is always funny, and is definitely funny here, but when you start the movie off with those two extremes, it’s a little hard to fall back on anything else.

And oh yeah, the plot, too. See, one of the interesting things about Fist Fight is that there is, believe it or not, some interesting commentary to be had about the school-system and how, in ways, it will literally drive two respectable, likable teachers, to the brink of madness and feel as if they have to beat the hell out of each other, just to keep their jobs. It’s a bit of an extreme example, for sure, but it also helps Fist Fight seem like more than just a lot of jokes and some story.

Which is, essentially, what it is.

And no, I’m not crapping on Fist Fight for not having more interesting ideas, or better yet, even more plot to work with; it’s a comedy and by default, has to be funny. If that’s the case, then yes, Fist Fight is a serviceable comedy that has laughs to offer. But like I said, not much else.

Consensus: Even with a solid cast who can handle goofy material like this well, Fist Fight also feels a bit underdeveloped and like every other studio comedy ever made.

5 / 10

Someone do something. Come on!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Remember (2016)

Who ever feels bad for the Nazis? Nobody! That’s who!

Nearly 90 and slowly, but surely, losing his memory to dementia, Holocaust survivor Zev (Christopher Plummer), has clearly been through a lot. That’s why, so late in his life, when a fellow friend, as well as Holocaust survivor, Max (Martin Landau), asks him to do a favor for him, he’s absolutely fine with it, even though he may forget about it some odd minutes later. But regardless of that, what Max calls on his dear friend to do for him is to search far and wide for a Nazi that is, supposedly, responsible for the death of his family, as well as Zev’s. Max gives Zev the name and a note, which he carries with him everywhere (as well as a gun), leaving Zev to head out onto this trip all by his lonesome. While he may forget what he’s doing, or where he’s at, and just act a tad confused, Zev still does not forget what his mission to do is, even as it grows more and more difficult every time he meets a new person who may, or may not be, related to the person he’s looking for and trying to kill.

Don't make him pull it. Cause I think he will. I'm actually not sure.

Don’t make him pull it. Cause I think he will. I’m actually not sure.

Writer/director Atom Egoyan hasn’t made a good film in quite some time, but we still hold out hope for him. Most of that has to do with the fact that, no matter what project he takes on next, he still finds talented people to be in his films and give him their all. Why is this? I still don’t really know, especially since Egoyan himself hasn’t been relevant since the Sweet Hereafter. But regardless, here we are with Remember, a film starring not one, but two very old Oscar-winners, which already puts it above the fray of the rest of Egoyan’s movies. Perhaps this time around, he wants to play it more confined and smaller, rather than go all out on some sort of big, blockbuster route, where we’d get all sorts of big-named actors and such, showing up and making the movie more ambitious, right?

Well, yes and no.

Egoyan does do something somewhat smart with his direction here in that he doesn’t allow for the story to get too over-saturated. Because we’re literally just meeting up with Zev so late in his life, we have to draw up a lot of conclusions of who this character was before he started to get old, and just why he matters to us now. Egoyan never shows us anything through flashbacks, but instead, allows for us to make up our own mind and watch as he travels through this new adventure of his, sometimes struggling to find a meaning, or better yet, purpose in all of it, but mostly, just trying to survive another day on Earth where he can remember what he’s doing, or where he’s at.

And channeling a lot of this sadness is Christopher Plummer in what is, yes, a very good performance from someone we expect them from constantly. Even though, like I said, Zev is an entirely new character to us, Plummer gives him all sorts of shadings, that have him go beyond just being the old, confused man. Yes, it’s very easy to feel bad for him and want to just give him a hug, but at the same time, Plummer shows that there’s at least some ruthlessness to him that may make him somebody other than from what we expected. Of course, this all help to Plummer and just how good of an actor he is – to make someone like this so grounded, even when it seems like he’s totally losing his marbles.

I guess being a Nazi war criminal also means not having the number to a barber.

I guess being a Nazi war criminal also means not having the number to a barber.

But of course, the rest of the movie is a bit of a problem.

Egoyan tries to make something compelling and tense with this script, but mostly, it just feels like a half-baked idea. At nearly an hour-and-a-half, Remember already feels too short and makes it seem like Egoyan didn’t have the time, or courage to really discuss any of these issues that were brought up here. There’s one scene with Bruno Ganz and Plummer that discusses how those involved with Hitler and the Nazis, still believe it to be their right call of passion. This is an obviously a controversial statement, but the movie never seems all that interested in exploring it anymore, and to just move onto the next scene where Plummer will meet up with somebody else, take out his gun and ask a few questions.

And yes, because Remember is a thriller, it doesn’t always work. In a way, it feels a lot better as a dark, but contained drama, if anything. But once Egoyan tries to throw in the guns and violence, it doesn’t quite go anywhere. Instead, it feels like an actor getting restless and worried that his movie may not already be grabbing people’s attention, so he has to create something to make that happen. It doesn’t quite work and makes Remember feel like two completely movies; both of which, Plummer is very good in.

Then again, when is that man not good in something?

Consensus: Despite dealing with some very dark and serious issues, Remember is all too concerned with its blood and violence, rather than actually addressing anything, but always allowing for Christopher Plummer to work his usual magic and keep everything grounded.

6 / 10

"Damn, we're old, man."

“Damn, we’re old, man.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Secret in Their Eyes (2015)

Does anybody in law enforcement love, or trust one another?

13 years ago, Ray Kasten (Chiwetel Ejiofor) was an FBI agent who had to work a very tough case. His partner at the time, Jess (Julia Roberts), had a daughter that went missing and wound-up dead. Automatically, everyone and their mothers started looking for suspects and while Ray knew he had the guy, locked and loaded, for some reason, said suspect was freed. The reasons behind this are a bit shady, but it left Ray, as well as his partner, and a confidante/possible flame of his, Claire (Nicole Kidman), in some tough situations. Now, in the present day, Ray believes he knows where this suspect is, what he does and just how he can get him back into the slammer, where he’ll hopefully live out the rest of his days in a jail cell. However, because Ray isn’t a cop anymore, he has to go through some legal hoops and curves to ensure that he’s not only doing everything by-the-books as humanly possible, but also to keep this suspect in jail and for good this time. Searching for this suspect also allows for Ray to get back in touch with former confidantes of his and remind himself of what it was that he left all those years ago.

Shades of gray = present. None = past. Got it?

Shades of grey = present. None = past. Got it?

Despite the original, 2009 Argentinian film having won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film all those years, for some reason, I just never got around to seeing it. Though I knew an English-language, big, bright and shiny, American remake is in the works and was more than likely going to tarnish the legacy of the original, I still couldn’t sit myself down in front of a screen and actually watch the movie. Call it bad timing, call it me being lazy, call it what you will – sometimes, stuff just happens.

But regardless of all that nonsense, having now seen the English-language, big, bright and shiny American remake, I’ve still got that feeling of not only wanting to watch the original, but also see how good it actually was to win the Oscar all those years ago.

See, for one, Secret in Their Eyes isn’t an awards-caliber movie; despite there being a nice amount of solid performances from just about everybody on-board here, the movie never once seems like it’s trying to reach for that infamous gold statue once. And in a way, there’s something refreshing about that, especially in a time like now, where it seems like each and every film was created for the sole purpose of being remembered and touted during the early winter of next year. Sometimes, it’s best to just have a solid, well-acted, and relatively fine crime-thriller and leave it at that.

And that’s exactly what Secret in Their Eyes is. It’s not setting out to light the movie world on fire, nor is it trying to have you remember by the year’s end and everybody’s trying to remember their favorite movies of the past year; it’s just trying to tell its story, give you a jump or two, make you think, and have you go home, feeling as if you spent a solid time at the movie. Though there is definitely a feeling that, considering the talented cast and crew involved, there could have been a bit more added to the proceedings, there’s also the feeling that it’s also not a remake made for purely cynical purposes.

That Secret in Their Eyes is targeted towards a much more mature, older audience, already sets it apart from most movies out there playing right now.

What’s interesting about the film is that we actually get a sense of who these characters are, amidst all of the troubles and turmoils this case may be bringing. Though it is a tad difficult to figure out which year we’re in (Ejiofor’s beard’s color is usually the clue), we still get a sense, through the relationships and personalities these characters have, of who they were both before, as well as after this horrendous murder. The movie doesn’t try to dig too deep, but because these actors are so good at what they do, they’re given that extra push that probably wouldn’t have happened, had some lesser-actors been cast.

Of course I’m not going to name any names, but you get the picture.

And of course, with the story, there’s a lot going on that can, in some ways, be interesting, and sometimes, not so much. There’s a chase-sequence that happens in and around Dodgers stadium that is absolutely breath-taking and exciting to watch. There’s also, now that I think about it, a very neat interrogating scene both Ejiofor’s and Kidman’s characters that have them stretching out the whole “good cop/bad cop” cliche and doing something intriguing with it. And while I’m at it, there’s a few other scenes that are pretty cool to watch, but really, that’s about it.

Which is to say that a solid hour or so of this movie is really solid – problem is, it hits nearly two hours. That means there’s another hour of this movie that’s not quite up-to-par as the other half. Therefore, while watching the flick, I couldn’t help but tune-out. The mystery at the center, although a bit simple and obvious from the very start, doesn’t take as many times as you’d expect it to, all up about until the final act and there’s two twists that seemed a little silly for a movie like this that was, already, way too serious and stern with itself. Granted, had there been a third twist, I probably wouldn’t have gotten up and left the theater, but thankfully, they just left it at two – as odd as they may have been.

Oh no, Julia! A gun? So against-type!

Oh no, Julia! A gun? So against-type!

But really, the main reason Secret in Their Eyes works, is because the cast is so good. It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Chiwetel Ejiofor does give, once again, a fine performance here, but there’s also something troubling about his character that I didn’t particularly buy. For example, there’s an arch surrounding his character which concerns his character, in something of a relationship with Kidman’s character; while we’re never too sure or not on whether they actually did anything intimate that would make them more than just office pals, the movie continues to hammer it into our brains that, you know, something could have happened.

Why? Because their attraction for one another is strong!

Well, the problem with Ejiofor and Kidman is that they don’t really have a chemistry together. If anything, throughout the majority of the flick, they feel like two people who just started working together at the same time and are just getting to know one another, slowly but also, steadily. This would have been a fine feeling in the “past” portion of the flick, but they still act like this together in the “present” part of the story and it’s weird.

Separated from Ejiofor, Kidman does a great job in a role that gives her plenty to do. While her chemistry with Ejiofor is, like I stated before, lacking, she still finds time and space to make sure that her own characters get built enough so that we have a feeling of just who the hell she is. And also, there’s Julia Roberts really dirtying herself up for a role that, although may seem like pure Oscar-bait, actually isn’t. In a way, it just feels like Roberts wanting to try something new and have the audience see her as this character, and not the beautiful celebrity that she is.

And considering that her husband is the one behind the camera, it makes sense that she looks every bit as anti-celebrity as she sees fit.

Consensus: While Secret in Their Eyes is, one-half a fine movie, and the other half is a bit mediocre, it still adds up to a solid crime-thriller that benefits largely from a talented cast.

6.5 / 10

What a love-triangle Chiwetel may hope he's involved with.

What a love-triangle Chiwetel may hope he’s involved with.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Safe (1995)

It’s like Bubble Boy. Without a bubble. Or a boy.

Carol White (Julianne Moore) lives a pretty carefree, unexciting life in California with her husband (Xander Berkeley) and stepson. The solid majority of her days consist of finding out which couches’ colors work best with living rooms and figuring out which diet to go on. So, yeah, basically, Carol has nothing to worry about. That all changes one day, however, when she starts to wheeze uncontrollably; though she goes to the doctor to get everything checked out, it turns out that there’s nothing really wrong with her. However, Carol isn’t fully convinced of this, so she looks into the matter herself, and the result she finds out is a bit unexpected, if random. For one, it seems that Carol is allergic to the 20th Century; meaning, there are certain chemicals, gases and irritants that get into her system, make her sick and have her lose control of her breathing. While everyone around Carol thinks that she’s losing her mind and/or is just looking for attention, she herself still knows that her condition is real and wants to find anything that can help her get better and possibly be cured. But where she goes to find these solutions, don’t always pan-out so well.

Pretty, curly hair does not distract.

Pretty, curly hair does not distract.

Todd Haynes doesn’t necessarily direct Safe, as much as he just guides it on along. There’s a very simple story here that, in Haynes’ own, no-frills way, doesn’t ever try to dig too deep into; instead, he just allows for it to be told as straight-forward as possible. However, by doing so, there’s something off about Safe that makes it a movie worth thinking a whole lot about; while it would be easy to classify it as a boring, incredibly slow disease-of-the-week flick, there’s so much more going on in between the folds and lines that make it seem like so much more.

In a way, you could classify Safe as “a thriller”, but at the same time, you couldn’t – while the movie definitely has all of the tension and unpredictability of a thriller, Haynes isn’t really depending on that to tell his story. Sure, the synth-inspired score is eerie to a fault, but despite it, the rest of the movie seems to just be focusing on what happens to Carol next – whether or not it excites you, is generally just up to you and what gets you going. For me, watching this story unfold, before my very own eyes, and to know that Haynes wasn’t trying to be at all pretentious with his style, kept me wide awake and watching.

Granted, I had no clue where the story was going, but that wasn’t the point.

The point of Safe, from what I can gather, is to depict the alienation one woman can feel when she is on the brink of extreme madness and everyone around her knows it. While Carol is, initially, a pretty dull character who doesn’t really have much of a personality, through this disease that she “catches”, we begin to see her develop more and more. We witness and understand the sadness, as well as the shock that she goes through her when she starts to realize that, due to all of these excessive bouts of sickness, she’s starting to lose those around her that she considers loved-ones and friends. What’s perhaps most interesting about Haynes’ direction here, is that he not only doesn’t give us much about Carol, but also doesn’t give us anymore to know about these fellow characters surrounding her, either – they are, in retrospect, just as much of a mystery to us, as they may be to Carol.

And as Carol, it’s definitely worth stating that, as expected, Julianne Moore is great, but it’s a relatively different role for her. For one, it’s not very showy; rather than getting a plethora of scenes dedicated to where she just constantly yells, rants and raves about her disease and the issues she’s having with it, Carol is much more subdued and written-down, which probably works best for her, in all honesty. It’s best that Carol, the character, doesn’t need to spell everything out for us to get the clear picture that yes, she’s feeling terrible and most of all, not doing so well in life.

But because Moore is such a good actress, she channels all of these emotions of sadness and despair in such a way that, despite us not really knowing much about Carol apart from her disease she’s been struck with, it’s hard not to feel a little heartbroken because of it. Moore lost a bunch of weight for this role and because of that, you get the sense that Carol could literally pass-out or fly away at any second; she’s clearly not in the right head-space to enjoy anything about life, so why would she actually continue to keep up with her original diet? But gimmicks aside and all, Moore is superb here and it’s no surprise why she decided to work with Haynes again on Far From Heaven and I’m Not There, as the two seem to bring out the best within one another.

While I’m on the subject of Carol, though, I do think that now is the best opportunity to discuss a problem I found with Safe that kept me away from actually loving it a whole lot more than I should have, and it was its discussion of the disease itself.

How I feel whenever I come home and literally have nothing to do.

How I feel whenever I come home and literally have nothing to do. Except Netflix, of course.

You know, the one where you’re literally allergic to everything surrounding you.

Believe it or not, it’s actually a real disease, which is why it’s so interesting to see someone, let alone, a person like Carol, go through it all and come to grips with all of the side effects of the said disease. What’s perhaps most interesting about is the discussion that Haynes seems to bring up with the disease: Is Carol really sick? Or, is she just another lonely housewife looking for attention? And also, even if the disease is real, does it take physical-form that carries on from one body to another? Or, does it all exist in somebody’s head and the only way for a person to get rid of the disease is to make themselves feel better and more sane?

I’m honestly still battling with myself just what party Haynes sticks with and it’s actually a bit disappointing. In the later-half of the movie, Haynes dives in deep into the idea of therapy as rehabilitation and it’s not only interesting, but also quite smart. However, he seems to just leave it there for us, the audience, to pick up on and it feels like a bit of a cheat. It’s almost as if Haynes himself seemed like he had something to say about this disease, but knew that he’d piss some people off by doing so, so instead, just allowed for it all to play-out as normal as humanly possible. Once again, have no problem with this, but I would have definitely liked to seen more about the disease and what it actually is.

Especially considering that, you know, when’s the next time someone’s going to make a movie about a person with MCS.

Consensus: Anchored by an amazing performance, but never over-done performance from Julianne Moore, Safe feels like the kind of real-life thriller that’s intriguing to watch and dissect, even if there are certain style-contrivances holding it back from reaching that pure level of excellence.

8 / 10

Yep. Still not getting any better. Sorry, hon.

Yep. Still not getting any better. Sorry, hon.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Counselor (2013)

Seems like everybody has to be a drug dealer nowadays. I place blame solely on Mr. White, that damn chemist.

A counselor (Michael Fassbender) has the life we would all like to live: Nice job, nice house, nice wife he so frequently pleasures (Penelope Cruz) and all sorts of other glamorous things around him. However, the life we would all like to have, apparently isn’t enough for him, which gets him involved with the drug-trafficking business in hopes of making some extra cash-flow here and there on the side. This is when the counselor gets involved with shady characters like Reiner (Javier Bardem), Westray (Brad Pitt) and perhaps the most suspicious of all, Malkina (Cameron Diaz), who seems like she has more up to her sleeve then just banging the hell out of her boyfriend and automobiles. Maybe she has something to do with this drug-dealing business which, as a result, draws further consequences for the counselor and all of his fellow associates involved with this deal that suddenly goes sour.

There’s been a lot said about the Counselor, and most of it is deserved. It is an odd piece of filmmaking, filled with more uneven pieces than actual comprehensive ones, but somehow, it works. See, the film’s marketing really created a shit-storm for this because it seemed like all it promised was non-stop sex, drugs, bullets, murder and DEA agents. However, that couldn’t have been further from the truth as this is more or less, another crime-thriller in the vein of last year’s Killing Them Softly: It’s all about pacing, baby. Pacing, pacing, pacing. And if you’re willing to stick by it, even when it does get incredibly strange, then you’ll find yourself happy and confused.

Don’t worry, those feelings are good because it’s abundantly clear that Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy both want you to feel this way.

He really needs something more?

He really needs something more?

Making a mention of Cormac McCarthy is probably the most important aspect in reviewing this movie because while some out there may not be familiar with him before seeing this movie, it’s almost imperative of you to know that his style of writing is not one that mixes so well with movies. Yes, he does have a stylish tongue that he likes to use on all of his characters and he definitely doesn’t have the happiest outlook on the world surrounding him, but because I already knew this, the movie was an easier pill to swallow than it most likely was for some, even in its weirdest moments.

The weird moments that i continue to allude to come at you aplenty here, but the most infamous one that seems to be getting the most attention, is the scene where Cameron Diaz’s character bangs a car. Honestly, this scene is so random, so strange and so out-of-place, that I honestly wondered who the hell saw this in the final-cut and thought it was okay to leave in. I get that it was supposed to be telling us that this character was not your normal female heroine, as in that she definitely likes to get what she wants right away, but it was just too distracting to get by, no matter how understandable the character’s motivations were. The only thing making it easier to get through this scene is Javier Bardem’s crazy faces and narration, which can be even more painful to see and hear, all because you’ll wonder what movie it is that you’re watching after awhile.

Thankfully, right after this scene, the movie gets somewhat back on track and shows us how these characters respond when shit begins to hit the fan. Everything leading up to this half, don’t get me wrong, was good because it focused a lot on dialogue and the setting-up of what would be a very tense final-half; but once this half kicks in, you do realize that the cast has finally taken notice of the type of material they’re given to work with, which is also, oddly enough, when Scott decides to throw some of his artistic-direction in as well. And as odd as it may be to say, this is probably the least “Ridley Scott-ish” movie he’s ever done. Not only is he restrained, but any moments that give him a free-reign to just get nuts with the look of the film, he somehow backs out on. Can’t say I was disappointed with seeing this, considering that the material didn’t seem like it demanded much of an overbearing style to get in the way of it, but I did also wish I saw some more of Ridley Scott in here. Just a shaky-cam bit or two. At least.

But I can’t get on Scott’s case too much because he does do the nice deed of letting the cast and script come together in a way that this flick so desperately needed in order to survive and stay interesting. And what a great coming-together of actors and material, save for one that I’ll get onto in a bit. Leading the cast is Michael Fassbender who, if you don’t know by now, is not just the most handsome mofo in the whole world, but also one talented dude as well that seems to be popping up more and more now for American audiences to get used to. While this won’t make him a household name by any stretch of the imagination, his role as the counselor shows us that he’s able to handle a film like this all to himself, where he practically goes from one character to the next, talking, showing emotion, giving each one of them a different piece of his personality and just creating a person that we can either loathe, or love. But sometimes with this character, it’s at the same time because he isn’t the most moral guy in the world, but then again, he isn’t the most evil one either; he’s just a guy trying to make some few extra bills here and there, in order to make a life for his wife more glamorous than it already is. He’s greedy for sure, but he isn’t a terrible person for that; he’s just a person. Plain and simple.

Fassbender’s best parts in this movie come mainly from the scenes he each has with both Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt, which makes it all the more tragic that all three never show up on-screen together at one point. Disappointing, but at least we still get to see them all act their asses off and have fun while doing so. Bardem has that crazy hair going on, but gives his character plenty of personality to where you really like the dude, but due to the company he surrounds himself with, you still never quite know if he can fully be trusted. And as for Pitt, well, needless to say, the guy steals the show everytime he shows up, which is sadly only about 15-minutes out of the whole 2-hour run-time. Pitt not only fills his character with plenty of wistful charm and coolness, but also gives him a slight humane-aspect as well, that somehow has him come off as the most reasonable human-being in the whole movie. The character only seems like he could be written for the screen, and yet, he still comes off like a relateable guy that knows what type of business he’s dealing with, and won’t think twice about who he throws under the bus, once that time eventually comes around.

"Yee-haw, baby. Yee-haw."

“Yee-haw, baby. Yee-haw.”

The boys in the cast have plenty to play with, which is good, but also disappointing as well, considering that the girls don’t fare quite as well. Penelope Cruz is underused, but sweet, soft and a bit sassy with her performance as the counselor’s girl who doesn’t always nag him about what he’s doing for most of the hours of the day, and is just happy to know that he’s alive, safe and still loves her. Total girl of his dreams, as well as all of ours, indeed.

However, I would have traded a whole flick dedicated wholly to Cruz’s character, if that meant we didn’t get a single scene of Cameron Diaz’s Malkina, all because she is absolutely, positively terrible in this movie and it gets very, very hard to watch after awhile. I remember when this flick first got announced and its cast was shown to us, I remember thinking that Cameron Diaz had herself an Oscar-nominee in the bag because the character of Malkina wasn’t the type we usually associate her with. There’s no inkling whatsoever of a heart, a soul or even the typical charm we usually see come from her performances; she’s actually the total opposite, which is probably the biggest problem with Diaz’s performance in the first place. Not only can she not play-against type to save her life, but she’s so outmatched by everybody else here that it makes you wonder who the hell she beat out for this role to get it. The accent she supposedly has, goes in, and it goes out; everytime she talks about something, she’s supposed to come off as “one bad-ass bitch”, but instead, seems like she’s trying WAY too hard; and if you don’t include her previously-mentioned scene where she humps a car, there’s no arch whatsoever to be found in this character, but it doesn’t hurt as much because you don’t care. I’ll give Diaz some credit for stepping out of her comfort-zone and doing a total 180, but it comes off more like a miscast opportunity, then a respectable one in terms of her career and where it’s going. Can’t say that same thing for the others here, only her.

Consensus: Definitely not the type of film its marketing has been promising, which is why, for better or worse, the Counselor is worth a watch to see what happens when you give a good cast, some worthy material, and just let them do their thing, as odd as that “thing” in question may be at times.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

This is when it all begins.....

The car is so willing…..

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