Movie Review: Unlikeable Characters In 'The Counselor' Lead To An Unlikeable Movie
The Counselor has this in common with The Butler: that the main character has very little to do with the action of the movie.
But in The Counselor, there is a point to this, in that the theme of the movie is that you have to be very careful because it is enormously easier to get into trouble than to get out of it.
Michael Fassbender is a lawyer who thinks he can operate just on the fringes of the criminal world without getting sucked into it. Brad Pitt is deep in it already, but thinks he can easily slip out of it if things get sticky. Penelope Cruz isn't really in it at all, but needs to be more careful about even flirting with it.
The Counselor shows how all of them are badly mistaken.
Unfortunately, it's not easy to care much what happens to these characters (except maybe Penelope Cruz), because they pretty much get what they have been asking for. Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt have a certain surface charm, but the more we see of them the less attractive they seem to be. Ruben Blades just pops in and philosophizes and pops out, but we can see that he isn't the man to go to in time of need any more than anybody else is. And Cameron Diaz is at the bottom of the pit, utterly irredeemable.
There's a lot of pretty obvious symbolism in The Counselor, suggesting that somebody may have wanted us to see more in it than is really there, but it doesn't come to much. Compare the almost virginal whiteness of Fassbender and Cruz's bedsheets and the glass walls of Bardem's house (plus a number of other interiors), and the beautiful outdoor vistas and two leopards and the leopard tattoos on Diaz, for example. Notice the different jewelry of Diaz and Cruz.
But it's mostly just glitter, pretty to look at but not much to think about.