ScreeningNotes’s review published on Letterboxd:
Watched this again in order to write a more comprehensive review of it. I wanted to show how the people who think this movie is literary or philosophical are grasping at straws, but I don't know, maybe they're not too far off. For me, the vast majority of the dialogue is awful. There's one scene in particular where Counselor talks to Laura on the phone and she's talking about running away
Counselor: Alright where?
Laura: How 'bout Boise?
Counselor: Why Boise?
Laura: What's wrong with Boise?
Counselor: Have you ever been to Boise?
Laura: No, have you?
Counselor: No. You have a hotel?
Laura: I'm looking as we speak. Tomorrow.
Laura: Yeah, Boise.
I can't watch this scene without either laughing, cringing, or both. There is also way to much dialogue about sex which doesn't seem to serve much of a purpose beyond railing at women.
But then there are a few lines and monologues which are actually really compelling. There's Westray's "archives of the redeemed" line, Jefe's "grief transcends value" speech, and Malkina's "ill-formed and ill-prepared" line. For me these were isolated instances of brilliance in a sea of boredom and mediocrity, but I can also understand being able to see the seeds of that greatness throughout the rest of the movie. It just didn't happen for me.
Then there's the movie's unique style. Two person dialogue in 28 of the film's 46 scenes. Very little expository action and next to no expository dialogue. All this very very effectively hides the plot of the film from the audience. For me this made the film dull and tiresome, but I think that's to some extent a failing on my part. While I don't think the movie did a good enough job selling itself to me (i.e. why should I care about what's happening), with a bit more patience I think the movie has a great build.
Ultimately I think The Counselor is an interesting film primarily for its narrative structure and not as much because of its content (with the exception of the speeches I mentioned above). I didn't enjoy watching it either the first or second time, but I can understand what other people see in it now.
EDIT: Oh yeah, and I love Malkina's wig. Very important.