Monday, October 28, 2013

'The Counselor': 5 Things That Went Wrong

'The Counselor': 5 Things That Went Wrong

Movie Talk
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Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender in 'The Counselor'
Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender in 'The Counselor' (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
"The Counselor" seemed to have everything going for it. Star power (including the holy grail of celebrity clout, Brad Pitt). Early buzz. Mega-director Ridley Scott. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Cormac McCarthy.
But the cinematic tale about the seedy power players of the drug-trafficking underworld failed miserably as it opened over the weekend, making only $9 million during its very wide release — playing in more than 3,000 theaters (that amounts to just less than $3 thousand per theater, mere pocket change for a film that cost more than $25 million to make).
Here is the breakdown of what went wrong.
1. Audiences Don't Like Dark.
Cameron Diaz — whose career has been built on being sunny and funny in the "Shrek" series and in romantic comedies dating all the way back to "There's Something About Mary" (1998) — was very much the opposite of that in "The Counselor." And yeah, everyone else — including Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Michael Fassbender, and Pitt weren't at all redeeming, either. "It's clear that moviegoers just weren't interested in a bleak drama about the drug trade," says editor-in-chief Phil Contrino, who contends that filmgoers make their movie selections based on their respective premises. (Remember how everyone booed at Ryan Gosling as street fighter-slash-drug smuggler in "Only God Forgives" at Cannes?) "'The Counselor' proves yet again that A-list stars cannot guarantee strong box office receipts," Contrino adds.
2. But Was It the Worst Movie Ever Made?
Andrew O'Hehir of thinks so, calling it "a self-referential commentary on its own terribleness." O'Hehir's opinion aside, "The Counselor" received a litany of bad reviews amounting to a paltry 21 percent score among top critics surveyed on Rotten Tomatoes. "Novelists don't always make good screenwriters — this is the first film for which [Cormac] McCarthy has written the screenplay himself," points out Slate's Forrest Wickman, who adds that the film's "nihilism soon becomes tedious." Incidentally, O'Hehir's lengthy denunciation of the film included the observation that it seemed like it was "made by coked-up rich people for 100 bajillion dollars."
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Diaz evokes a feline in more ways than one in 'The Counselor' (20th Century Fox)
3. Cameron Diaz's Love Scene … With a Car.
It's that part of the film you can't un-see. Without getting too graphic, Diaz goes at it with the windshield of a Ferrari. And most reviews have warned moviegoers of its overall awfulness. Lisa Kennedy of the Denver Post was vocal in her opposition to the scene, calling Diaz's casting "a spectacular blunder." Some writers have taken to poking fun at the unfortunate snippet of celluloid while others discussed its shock value. "'The Counselor' Features the Year's Most Outrageous Sex Scene," blurted IGN's headline. Peter Travers also found the film to be quite unsexy. When it came to Fassbender and Cruz in between the sheets, the RollingStone critic wrote, "As eroticism, it's, um, unconvincing."
4. If It's Not Oscar Bait, Why Bother?
There are just too many stellar movies out right now to let "The Counselor" skate by. "It has become difficult for many films to distinguish themselves and become breakout hits in this virtual traffic jam at the multiplex," says Rentrak box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian, who names "Captain Phillips," "12 Years a Slave" (also with Pitt), and "Gravity" as just part of the film's "intense competition." "New and notable films being released week after week have made this a harsh environment for some titles," he notes. Still, Dergarabedian predicts the film will eventually recoup its $25 million once it has opened across the globe.
5. Brad, Where Were You?
Fassbender and Bardem did a small amount of press ahead of the film's opening (including an interview with our partners at omg! Insider). Cruz was a little less than quiet, discussing the film with an Australian outlet. But overall, the cast kept tight-lipped leading up to this past weekend's release. Diaz and Pitt were nowhere to be seen last week when it came to peddling their wares. Even when movies are poorly received, stars typically come out in full force — as did John Travolta and the rest of the cast for Oliver Stone's similarly-themed 2012 drug-cartel film "Savages." Heck, even the normally vocal director Ridley Scott did very little press for the film — and we know poor reviews don't typically deter him (see the criticism for last year's "Prometheus"). Of course, Fassbender and Pitt have the much more acclaimed "12 Years a Slave" also out now, so it makes sense they'd put their promotional efforts into the stronger film.
So why did you skip "The Counselor" at the theater this weekend? Or if you were one of the few to actually buy a ticket, what did you think of it? Tell us in the comments.
Watch 'The Counselor' Theatrical Trailer: 

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pattinase (abbott) said...

I had high hopes for this one. Great cast, writer, director.

Fred Blosser said...

Another movie about corrupt yuppies and drug dealers, starring actors who are either overexposed (Fassbinder, Pitt) or past their prime (Diaz, Bardem, Cruz). McCarthy's name doesn't mean anything to anyone except grad students. The bit about Diaz and the windshield wiper sounds interesting, though.