10/27/2013 01:18 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

The Counselor

This movie is like the spreading dull ache of a sinus infection. A slight discomfort initially, then spreading more generally until your entire head hurts. Your teeth ache. Did you catch a cold from that sniffly young woman in the elevator yesterday? From Algernon at the office who kept sneezing and claiming last season allergies?

The Counselor begins with an uncomfortable scene that should have been sexy. Two of the beautiful people on the planet, doing stuff under high thread count sheets and designer pillows, that, like the movie, becomes a combination of cloying and disturbing as the dialogue makes one wonder at what point of living alone in an isolated trailer, outside of El Paso, did Cormac McCarthy write for Penthouse Letters?

Sex in The Counselor plays a major role, or at least talking about sex does. Cormac seems to write dialogue in an old man amazed at today's sexual landscape voice: can you believe what these girls are doing these days?

I'll prove it with one word of his dialogue: sopping. Sopping... oh my!

All the A-listers are in this movie: Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Bruno Ganz, even Rosie Perez, who I have personally missed without realizing it until I saw her again. Still feisty, and, even without makeup in shapeless prison garb, beautiful.

The movie is directed by a movie genius, Ridley Scott. So, what could go wrong? Well, uh, everything.

Actors and scenes seem to come and go, talking of Michelangelo. Bruno Ganz does a diamond merchant turn in Amsterdam, one would think, because Cormac had never been there before or everyone had unused frequent flyer miles and thought hey, why not? Or, maybe like his amazement at changing sexual mores among the Gen-Xers, he had heard and wanted to see for himself hash cafes. But, in terms of plot or tone, what the heck: nothing in the scene makes sense in terms of the movie's plot, although you do get a Diamonds for Dummies mini class.

Most of the movie seems to be a continuation of Cormac's fascination and horror at the changes that the narcotraficantes have wrought to his beloved Southwest. Greed and mindless brutality, murder and mayhem, cruelty for cruelty's sake: a Blood Meridian for modern times. As far as I could determine, the characters are involved in a metaphorically apt movement of $20M in cocaine, hidden amid the merde, in a truck to nowhere, on behalf of someone, to enrich something, and get The Counselor out of a bit of financial bother.

All set amidst alternating scenery of opulence and squalor. Snifters of brandy, cool cocktails, and BPs contrasted with gagging savagery, sweaty unshaven faces, and scruffy evil traffickers.

Michael Fassbender is The Counselor, in love with Penelope, who is someone never defined, in a deal with Javier, doing his best Robert Downey Jr. impersonation, who is in a sexually fantasized existence with Cameron Diaz, who is selling a new line of false eyelashes and makeup while crotch deep in all sorts of skullduggery, as Brad Pitt, combining his last six or seven roles into a character who pontificates in a suitably obscure fashion to make the whole inexplicable mess seem intellectual, as Ridley meanders all over a story that caused the ache mentioned above and aches now as I try to write to tell you to skip this movie and Netflix The Duelists to see a real story (based on Conrad not Cormac) done by Ridley in his prime.

Which he may be in now, at least in terms of size of directing check received, despite putting drivel like this on the big screen.

There are a couple of No Country for Old Men shoot 'em ups, and some murky morality going on here: the scheisse truck to nowhere is an apt metaphor for it all. Fassbender weeps bitterly at the end, perhaps at missing out on being in a Fassbinder movie for wordplay fun, but, I would guess, hoping for sympathy from the audience because he, like us, knows a sinus headache of a movie like The Counselor lingers, and can destroy careers.