The Counselor written by Cormac McCarthy, directed by Ridley Scott (Fox 2000 Pictures, Scott Free Productions, Nick Wechsler Productions, R, 117 min)

Starring Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, and Brad Pitt.

The Weakest Link

There’s truth to the saying, “You’re only as strong as the weakest link.” In business, you could have the highest performing management, design sensibility, and customer service, but if your supply chain is poor, the customer won’t be happy. In sport, you can try your best to hide your weakness but you’ll inevitably need to rely on that part when the season is on the line.

Penned by Cormac McCarthy, directed by Ridley Scott, starring Hollywood A-Listers — The Counselor ought to be a hit.

Sadly, Cameron Diaz is the weakest link in the film, The Counselor.

Drug Deals on the Border

The story follows a lawyer, known only as “The Counselor” (Michael Fassbender). A successful man who has recently proposed to his girlfriend, Laura (Penélope Cruz), The Counselor seeks more, especially after a business partner, Reiner (Javier Bardem) suggests The Counselor could wield more power.

Taking this suggestion to heart, The Counselor meets Westray (Brad Pitt), a kingpin in the drug trade, wanting in on a deal that carries exponential rewards.

Such deals come with a fair amount of warning. Westray wants The Counselor to know upfront that he’s dealing with a ruthless cartel and that any mistakes could have dire consequences.

Not phased by the warning, The Counselor jumps in head first, but a seemingly innocuous pardon during his day job could lead to everything crashing down, especially with Renier’s girlfriend, Malkina (Cameron Diaz), dead set on creating havoc with every stakeholder in this group of conspirators.

Ruining Everything

Even though everything is set up perfectly for a trademark McCarthian bloodbath on the border, the casting choice of Cameron Diaz ruins everything. Her inability to grab the nuance of the character and to emit the evil that the character needs to portray leaves the entire story hollow. When you don’t trust the criminality or mastermind of a character that’s supposed to be a criminal mastermind, the rest of the story becomes inconceivable.

And it’s really too bad. The rest of the cast performs flawlessly — Fassbender as a character over his head, Bardem as an aloof hedonist, Cruz as the conflicted Catholic who trusts her fiancé even if she knows she shouldn’t.

Although there are some particularly inventive narrative aspects to The Counselor, Cameron Diaz’s inclusion is an offense too big to overcome.

Verdict: 2 out of 5

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