FILM: The Counsellor (18)

Audiences may require counselling sessions after two hours of twisted desire and treachery in the company of Ridley Scott’s erotically charged thriller.

In the film’s most memorable scene - not necessarily for the right reasons - Cameron Diaz’s tattooed vixen removes her underwear, mounts the bonnet of her boyfriend’s convertible and energetically performs a gymnastic feat across the windscreen that would surely be better served by a sponge or chamois leather.

The Counsellor

The Counsellor

“You see a thing like that, it changes you,” whimpers the boyfriend.

We wholeheartedly agree - we will never see Diaz the same way again.

Her all-guns-blazing portrayal is accompanied by terrific performances from Michael Fassbender and Penelope Cruz. All three are badly let down though by Cormac McCarthy’s overly complicated and wordy script, which isn’t remotely interested in the protagonists’ emotional turmoil, just their suffering.

It’s a far cry from the nuances of the Coen brothers’ Oscar-winning adaptation of McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men, which elegantly offset his penchant for graphic violence with macabre humour and rich characterisation.

Fassbender plays a nameless Counsellor, whose girlfriend Laura (Cruz) tearfully accepts his marriage proposal.

“I intend to love you until I die,” he gushes.

That may be sooner than Laura thinks because the Counsellor has invested his fortune in a drug trafficking operation across the Texas-Mexico border. Inevitably, the deal goes bad and the Counsellor is marked for death along with two associates from the criminal underworld: floral-shirted playboy Reiner (Javier Bardem) and swaggering cowboy Westray (Brad Pitt).

“It’s not that you’re going down, Counsellor... it’s what you’re taking down with you,” Westray remarks sagely, before he boards a plane bound for London.

Meanwhile, Reiner is distracted by his gold-toothed girlfriend Malkina (Diaz), who owns two pet cheetahs.

“When the axe comes through the door, I’ll already be gone,” she purrs.

The Counsellor looks glorious courtesy of Scott’s impeccable visuals, but all of that style means nothing when we can’t forge an emotional bond to the characters as they wallow through the mire.

Fassbender wrings himself dry of tears as he realises Westray’s words are right: “If your definition of a friend is someone who would die for you then you don’t have any.”

Cruz is luminous, providing sweetness and light to counterbalance Diaz’s slinky predator. But dialogue is sodden with dense philosophical musings on the fragility of life that don’t sound like anything normal people would say to one another.

And when one doomed player takes an inordinate amount of time explaining the intricacies of a motorised device that tightens around the neck of a victim, we know it’s only a matter of time before Scott realises this grisly vision in blood-drenched close-up.

He doesn’t disappoint - but his film certainly does.

:: SWEARING :: SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 5/10

Released: November 15 (UK & Ireland), 117 mins