The drawing power of Michael Fassbender, the German-Irish actor who has been getting the big build-up in recent years, is being put to the test this weekend with the opening in the U.S. of The Counselor. This is his chance to live up to the cover billing alongside his picture on the front of the current issue of GQ: “The Leading Man Hollywood’s Been Waiting For.”
Portraying a Texas lawyer who tries to pull off a major drug deal, Fassbender has the title role in The Counselor. The R-rated, violent crime thriller (which includes two beheadings) was booked for 3,000-plus screens.
Fassbender isn’t up there all alone on the big screen. His glittery costars include Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and Penélope Cruz. Adding to the film’s impeccable pedigree, the director is Englishman Ridley Scott (Thelma & Louise) and the screenwriter is novelist Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men).
Despite all that star power, early critical reception for the film has been mostly negative. As of late Friday, the film was scoring only 37 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregating site. Worse, when narrowed down to critics representing elite papers and websites, the film’s score dropped to a pathetic 22 percent.
Typical was the viewpoint of critic Todd McCarthy, who wrote in the Hollywood Reporter, “Despite its scaldingly hot cast and formidable writer/director combination, The Counselor is simply not a very likable or gratifying film. In fact, it’s a bummer.” The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern wrote, “The most likable characters in The Counselor are a pair of cheetahs. They may be animal or they may be digital, but they stand out from everyone else because they don’t moralize, philosophize or dispense epigrams. They have spots but no lines, and that’s a blessing in this deep-dyed downer ….”
The only major critic to embrace the movie was the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis, who praised it for what she called its “terrifying, implacable” darkness and Scott for his “impeccable control and a lucid visual style.”