The Counselor (2013) – Review

4 Stars


I’ve seen The Counselor twice now, and I’m still not clear on exactly what happens to whom and for what ultimate reason. That a major studio release could be this confounding, lyrical, erotic and downright brutally violent is a testament to the faith executives have in both Cormac McCarthy and Ridley Scott. With each successive viewing the film grows darker, colder and just the slightest bit more coherent, but this isn’t a movie that is assembled for cohesiveness, it is intended to rattle and disrupt viewers. The Counselor is a film that demands your full attention, and in return Scott delivers beautiful visual compositions and attractive stars to match the eloquent writing of McCarthy.

The film stars Michael Fassbender as an arrogant, well dressed lawyer known simply as Counselor, nobody in this movie has a last name. He lives a wealthy lifestyle and has an attractive latin girlfriend (Penélope Cruz), but is compelled by greed to partake in a one-time drug deal that involves smuggling cocaine from Juarez, Mexico through the Texas border. His partner in the undertaking is the flamboyantly dressed and well coiffed club-owner named Reiner (Javier Bardem). Reiner’s girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz) is a dangerous trophy girlfriend who studies the hunting prowess of cheetahs and takes notes. All of the performances in the movie are fantastic, but best used of any is Brad Pitt as a quick-thinking middle man for the transaction with an escape plan and a weakness for women.

There will most likely be a lot of unfavorable comparisons between No County for Old Men and this picture, for obvious reason. While both stories originated for the same author Country had the quirky tweak of the Coen Brothers filter, and The Counselor plays like unadulterated McCarthy, straight from the page, for better or worse. Recognizable themes of greed, death, the primal instincts of humans and their consequences are prevalent in every scene.

The Counselor feels as if Ridley Scott was guided by the influence of his late brother Tony and macho genre specialist Sam Peckinpah, who’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia and this share more than a few similarities. There is something glamorous about watching gorgeous people doing ugly and evil things to one another, this itself has been a prevalent theme in much of the younger Scott’s work, most notably in 1990’s Revenge. Production was shut down on the project while Ridley dealt with the death of his sibling, and the film is dedicated to Tony in memorandum. I have a feeling this is the kinda of movie Tony would have loved.

Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem

2 thoughts on “The Counselor (2013) – Review

  1. It’s a great film. Truly under-appreciated. Great performances and a complex script from Cormac McCarthy. Also some super-intense thriller stuff.

    The shootout on the highway, the bolito… All great scenes, with the setting up of the wire across the road probably my favorite. Proves that Scott is still a great director.

    The comparison to Peckinpah’s “Alfredo Garcia” in that review was interesting. That’s one of my personal favorites, and I guess it does share similarities with The Counselor.

    Looking forward to getting this on Blu-Ray. Been wanting to see it again since I walked out of the theater. Plus, bonus footage!

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