Put Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz in the same movie and you should, in theory, have fireworks.
Add Ridley Scott as director, then throw in Brad Pitt and Cameron Diaz, and it ought to be a surefire explosion. Alas, this thriller about a drug deal gone wrong is something of a misfire, albeit a fascinating one.
Fassbender is a lawyer in love with Cruz (“Life is being in bed with you,” he tells her. “Everything else is just waiting.”). To pay for their future together, he unwisely provides legal cover for a huge drug shipment set up by Bardem’s wildly over the top fixer, Reiner.
Written by Cormac McCarthy and set in his familiar US-Mexico border territory, this is not another triumph like No Country For Old Men.
For a writer who wastes very few words on the page, the Pulitzer prize winner’s dialogue is mired in verbosity. He seems to have got carried away as his characters wax on about good, evil and the flaws of man.
McCarthy is a man’s writer. Women tend to enter his world as archetypes, in this case Diaz’s femme fatale and Cruz’s sweetly innocent wife.
Diaz’s vamp routine as Bardem’s mistress is bonkers rather than menacing – watch her as she mounts Bardem’s motor for kicks.
The philosophical script might have worked in a movie that was more overtly surreal, but Scott sticks to the conventions of the Hollywood thriller.
After a while, all the shots of fancy houses and cars do make it feel a bit like a 1980s TV commercial.
The result is occasionally brilliant but mostly self-conscious and overcooked, with some shocking violence in the last third.
On the plus side, the score and soundtrack are excellent.
Review by Joe Gill