“Counselor” guilty of bad dialog, dull plot

“The Counselor” had so much promise. But a great writer, accomplished director and remarkable cast, make the end result all the more disappointing.
The first great in this film’s lineup is accomplished novelist, Cormac McCarthy, known for “The Road” and “No Country for Old Men,” among others, making his original screenplay debut. But for all his undeniable potential, this is nowhere among his best work.
The story begins as a lawyer looking to make money known only as “Counselor” (Michael Fassbender) makes a get rich quick deal with a cocaine dealing drug cartel represented by Reiner (Javier Bardem), an eccentric dance club owner and Westray (Brad Pitt), the middleman to the drug cartel. All actors, great in their own right, go unserved by the plot and make you wish you could pluck each out and put them together in a better movie.
From the outset it’s obvious this deal will not go well for the Counselor. Now that he is in some unspecified financial trouble he still spends an extravagant sum on his fiance Laura’s (Penelope Cruz) engagement ring.
Tragically, Cruz is a talent perhaps the most underserved in this project, becoming nothing more than an object of desire.
The purchase of the ring though leads to the best scene and dialogue in McCarthy’s script between Fassbender and the diamond dealer (Bruno Ganz “Wings of Desire”) philosophizing about flaws and love. From here on out the Counselor’s character deteriorates along with the plot.
While there are occasionally lines that are gems, spoken mostly by Pitt and Bardem’s characters, most of the dialogue topples over itself, built upon flimsy characters and a weaker plot that provides no foundation for the sweeping statements McCrthy attempts to make about the nature of sex, violence and more sex. And mankind and sex, again.
It’s a message epitomized in Bardem’s character telling the Counselor a story of his current girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz) who, oddly enough, had sex with the windshield of his yellow Ferrari.
Bardem’s delivery of the story may be entertaining at moments, but it never manages to work. It’s neither particularly funny nor particularly sexy, but is instead another pointless anecdote in a movie comprised of pointless anecdotes that convey the plot one step at a time without bothering to connect with any meaning or complexity.
This is especially true for Fassbender’s character. His name “The Counselor” is the great irony of the movie because he is the only one in need of advice or counseling, essentially an empty suit driving an expensive car.
He come by his title thanks to being a lawyer but  everyone, particularly Pitt and Bardem, seem to call him Counselor as a joke. The character’s cluelessness and indecisiveness becomes cloying, leaving the character with not much to do but look very confused by everything and pine after his fiancee.
Only Bardem and Pitt seem comfortable or somewhat fleshed out in their roles as drug cartel middlemen with both extremely entertaining as the film’s saving grace.
Rule of thumb for the movie in general: if a character talks about something disturbing, it’s probably going to happen. It’s clumsy and obvious every time. Still, the movie succeeds when its characters mouths are shut.
That brings me to last squandered talent. Director Ridley Scott is known for classics like “Alien,” “Blade Runner” and “Gladiator” and does a fine job making the movie at least pleasant to look at, especially during heist and action scenes that aside from the music and gunfire these scenes are mercifully silent and provide some of the best moments in the film.
But really, “The Counselor” might have worked better as a novel where the author could have fleshed out his creation and then let someone else translate it to the screen, like McCarthy has done in past successes. But what is left on the screen here is a flawed work holding back the few impressive contributions from what might have been an impressive display of true talent.