The Counselor (2013)

The Counselor (2013)
  • Time: 111 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Cast: Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Penélope Cruz, Javier Bardem


A rich and successful lawyer named Counsellor is about to get married to his fiancée but soon meets up with the middle-man known as Westray who tells him his drug trafficking plan has taken a horrible twist and now he must protect himself and his soon bride-to-be lover as the truth of the drug business uncovers and targets become chosen.


  • Ridley Scott is an awesome director and Cormac McCarthy is a skilled writer, even if the subject matter is usually unpleasant. The story here is told with style, and the layered details imply much while directly stating little. Not a “happy” story, as the subject matter deals with many of the ugly realities of the illegal drugs trade, but mesmerizing, regardless. The main characters are played perfectly, especially with their character flaws. The tone was reminiscent of previous works, such as No Country for Old Men. Again, the story isn’t a crowd-pleaser, and I believe that’s actually the point. In that regard, the narrative techniques are very effective. You, as the audience, very much empathize with the protagonist, the Counselor, at the film’s premise: you are strapped-in, and along for “the ride.” In short, it’s very well done, and definitely worth a watch, but you probably won’t want to watch it more than once.

  • The Counselor seemed like it was going to be one of this year’s best movies. It had everything: a good director, a writer famous for writing the novel No Country for Old Men, and a cast of talented actors including Micheal Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Brad Pitt and… uhmh… Cameron Diaz. Unfortunately, after watching the move I must say The Counselor wasn’t as great as I expected it to be. Also, labeling The Counselor as ‘not-really-that-great’ could be somewhat of an understatement; it would be more precise to say that The Counselor is, to some extent, a bad movie.

    The movie mainly follows Michael Fassbender’s character – who is never addressed by his name, only by his profession (he is, surprisingly, a counselor) – who proposes to his beautiful girlfriend Laura (Penélope Cruz). However, he is short of money, so he goes into an illegal drug job with his acquaintance Reiner (Javier Bardem). Reiner screws a woman named Malkina (Cameron Diaz) – not that it matters very much in this content, but she is one of the key characters in the movie. Also, Brad Pitt is somewhere in the movie, playing a character named Westray.

    You might notice in my summary that I was very vague in describing the movie’s plot, because that is precisely the movie’s main problem – it is rather vague. It is never established, during the whole movie, the connections the characters have with the actual plot, or even the connections among the characters. The audience is never involved in the characters, or the illegal drug job that inevitably goes bad, and therefore can’t have an emotional reaction when things go wrong. In that aspect the movie is vague, underwhelming and even tedious sometimes. And while the overall bleakness of the movie might have some (in lack of a better word) stylistic charm, this vague nature of The Counselor is often unnaturally abrupted by some rather specific scenes that lead absolutely nowhere. So, if you hate conventional narrative devices and just want to watch a movie that has completely pointless scenes, like the one in which Dean Norris and John Leguizamo talk about a dead body in a barrel, I’ve got good news for you.

    Speaking of vague writing, I had some problems with the movie’s dialogue, which was occasionally clingy – mostly the lines spoken by Cameron Diaz. I’m not a big Diaz fan overall, and she even did quite a nice job in The Counselor, but the way she sometimes delivered the lines made me giggle. The rest of the cast was good likewise, which isn’t a surprise since they are all experienced actors, and I won’t spend much time talking about them. As for Ridley Scott, I’d suggest he retires and stops making movies which are not bad, but are ultimately utterly disappointing. And that’s what The Counselor is – utterly disappointing.

    Rating: 6/10

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  • This one was disappointing! From the trailer, cast, director, synopsis etc you are probably expecting a high octane, on the edge of your seat thriller, with a strong plot line and characters you can love or hate. Unfortunately, it’s totaly not that way! I cannot even imagine what the plot or storyline was supposed to be. There is no likable character. There are no laughs. There is no suspense. Director Ridley Scott is supposed to be great, but this movie was a waste of time… Conclusion: do not watch this, you will be bored waiting for something to happen only to realize that nothing ever does…

  • “A man would give entire nations to lift grief off his heart and yet, you cannot buy anything with grief, because grief is worthless.”

    This is a difficult movie to rate. I have mixed feelings about it. The first part is terribly tedious and boring. A series of hugely pretentious dialogues and incomprehensible philosophical reasoning. It is a montage of various fragmentary issues that make it difficult to sense the vibe of the movie and to understand what it’s about. Also there are subjects used that were completely beside the point in my eyes (the erotic beginning for starters). Also the total absence of any explanation of how they ended up in this situation, makes it uneasy to follow the storyline.
    Ridley Scott, of course known for his masterpieces “Blade Runner” and “Alien”,didn’t succeed in keeping up the momentum. You first need to endure a full hour to finally realize what the contents of the movie is and after that you can enjoy a rough settlement by the drug cartel. And that’s the double feeling about this film. The first part gets a unsatisfactory grade. The second part is the counterbalance.

    In terms of characters Brad Pitt tops them all. A savvy person with a reserved and confident attitude that apparently has everything well organized. When something starts to go wrong, he can disappear instantly and retire for the rest of his life. His white suit and Stetson on his long hair gives him a dignified appearance and a rebellious appearance at the same time. Michael Fassbender as “The Counselor” was convincing as a lawyer , but what the hell is he doing among those criminals ? He looks like a choirboy who will start to cry when slapped in his face. This is also something that is not really clear . How did he end up with the drug lord Reiner ? Is he also a kind of counselor as Tom Hagan in “The Godfather” ? I don’t think so. He would earn enough money and wouldn’t be involved in the drug deal that ultimately will bring him down. Money problems perhaps ? I don’t think so either since he can travel all the way to Amsterdam to choose a diamond.

    Javier Bardem was also brilliant as the eccentric Reiner. He looked just like a tanned Tom Jones. Cruz played only a minor role and she was just a religious prude naive woman who was constantly upset by the others. The only one I hated instantly, was Cameron Diaz. She is as hot as a typical non-functional oven and she’s clearly getting older resulting in slight hanging skin at some places. Besides the fact that she plays a dual role in a sly way, she tries to shock sexually, with as highlight the sticky wet routine on the windshield of Reiner’s car.

    The story on its own is dead simple and it doesn’t need 2 hours to be told. It took so miserable long because of the dialogues as mentioned earlier . It was terribly annoying after a while . Even with subtitles in English , it didn’t make any sense to me sometimes. Everybody seemed like having an academically degree in languages. It seemed as if they had to transform every dialogue into an anthology of an intellectual high level with a lot of difficult words. Even the drug baron Reiner and someone from the drug cartel used those intricate descriptions. They sound so philosophical that I doubt they could understand themselves. A fragment of the Dutch diamond expert sounds as follows : “To partake of the stone’s endless destiny, is that not the meaning of adornment? To enhance the beauty of the beloved is to acknowledge both her frailty and the nobility of that frailty. At our noblest, we announce to the darkness that we will not be diminished by the brevity of our lives.”. Even after reading it three times again, i still can’t understand the deeper meaning .

    The most impressive scene was the liquidation of Brad Pitt. It was filmed fairly explicit and gruesome. The best dialogue was between Pitt and Fassbender about Snuff movies. The funniest thing was the fact that they twice used a joke that’s often told here amongst friends. The one the motorcyclist told about the dog food. The second about the Pope in Mexico. Funny to experience that.

    Final conclusion: an intricate dead boring first hour as a precursor to a quite impressive offensive end. Ultimately, on average, it is still not sufficient.

  • Every aspect of the 2013 release The Counselor (minus the philosophically damned script), tells you that this is a Ridley Scott film. If you enjoy the way he carefully directs by bringing scenes to a slow creep and then having things interrupted with an act or two of brutal violence, then this will satisfy you, the fan of said director. I have to say that initially I had become bored with the first 30 minutes or so of this slick, trashy (might as well throw in stylized) sort of 2 hour resembling of a cable TV drama (rated for mature audiences of course). It started off as pretentious and self indulgent. You have actors constantly engaging in conversations with each other that go on longer than needed. And the dialogue is all about the meaning of life and such. Therefore, I kept thinking to myself, why does everyone in this vehicle have to be so smart? Although the performances were substantial (with the exception of the continuously miscast Cameron Diaz), it seemed as though the script required almost all the cast members to be Socrates (the supposed founder of Western philosophy).

    Brought to life by rookie screenwriter Cormac McCarthy (his novices shows in his screen writing even though he’s a well accomplished novelist) and dedicated to Ridley Scott’s brother (famed director Tony Scott) who committed suicide during filming, The Counselor examines a lawyer who on the side, gets involved in drug dealings with the Mexican cartel. Hoping to get a huge return back and taking different angles of advice from a drug kingpin named Reiner (played with a goofy stature and an even goofier haircut, by Javier Bardem), “Counselor” (he has no name, this is what everybody calls him) eventually gets in way over his head. He is warned by a middleman named Westray (played by Scott veteran Brad Pitt) that such a deal might be the wrong path to be taken. Furthermore, it doesn’t help that he puts his I guess, pregnant wife (Laura played by Penelope Cruz) in harm’s way throughout. Let me put it this way, I found myself more embroiled with The Counselor’s fate as every other character begin to die off. I read a separate review that said this motion picture was sort of a dark neo-noir. By definition, neo-noir films deal with social ramifications so I guess that critic pretty much got it right.

    Anyway, if you can get past the gnawing characteristic of the aforementioned tainted screenplay, then you’ll find that this movie barrels along by becoming more intriguing and to a fault, more involving. You realize that Scott knows that there is a problem with the script (he didn’t write it), but he decides to be in complete control of the camera anyway. He directs with confidence and funnels little nuggets here in there from his other movies, plastering them into this one. His cast is vast and diligent (a couple of cameos by some notable screen talents). He films sequences either from a long distance away or close up with two actors trading words in a small, claustrophobic space. Last but certainly not least, he puts a relatively unknown yet well seasoned Michael Fassbender in the lead role. Known in this flick as simply “The Counselor,” he is able to carry the whole 2 hour running time quite well. He’s in almost every frame (Fassbender looks a little like a young Jeremy Irons and has Ewan McGregor’s manneristic smirk) and goes toe to toe with some big name actors (Brad Pitt anyone) that seem to fade in and out of the proceedings. In the end, you don’t quite know what the future has in store for him. But you get a sense that his character is the type of person who falls prey to the notion of bad things happening to not so bad people.

    All and all, The Counselor as a movie, likes to leave little tracings of symbolism here and there (especially in the opening scene). Its intentions are to let you know that it has deeper interludes that extend far beyond the simple art of a drug deal. Yes, there are little flaws that are evident (some of the dialogue is borderline laughable and cringe worthy) but in the end, it still comes off as weirdly sophisticated. It’s for the moviegoer who can hold his or her attention span and not harbor to all the disposable drivel that’s thrown in year after year (stuff like remakes of classics which I’ve been ripping on since March). To be honest, I don’t know if I would put this thing on my top ten list of 2013. However, it resonates with you minutes after you see it. And that’s something I look for when I want to garner a recommendation. It also has the type of ending shot that I like where the camera focuses on a main character’s face, and then goes suddenly to blackout (without any type of fading). With The Counselor, you get a mostly trademark Ridley Scott film and heck, usually he’s incapable of making anything mediocre. Halfway into the second act when things get dangerous, Brad Ptit’s character states, “I’d say it’s pretty bad, then muliply it by ten.” Yeah, I’d say this flick is not so bad so I’ll just add three stars.

    Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

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  • Drug trafficking has been the source of countless movies, even before “Scarface” Tony Montana invited his assassins to “say hello to my little friend”. And it’s easy to see why Hollywood has returned to this subject so many times since. Drug dealers represent a shadowy underworld full of danger. This sub-genre easily lends itself to great drama – almost too easily. While many of these movies might blend together in your memory with their similar plot lines and interchangeable characters, the 2013 entry into this crowded field stands out. “The Counselor” (R, 1:57), treats the drug trade as background. The film emphasizes its human drama, making its characters practically pop off the screen in vivid detail.

    The title role is played by Michael Fassbender. He’s a lawyer who has worked with some pretty unsavory characters and has decided to participate in a Juarez to El Paso drug shipment that promises a very big payoff. He becomes engaged to his girlfriend Laura (Oscar winner Penelope Cruz) and seems to want to give her the best of everything. The Counselor is in league with men like Reiner (Oscar winner Javier Bardem) and Westray (multiple Oscar nominee Brad Pitt) who have seen it all and done it all. They offer advice on how to deal with the dangerous world he’s entering, but they don’t have a lot of answers when things go south and the local drug cartel thinks that The Counselor is trying to steal their shipment of cocaine. He learns that whenever you’re in business with bad people, bad things can happen at any moment and even minor mistakes can be deadly. The mayhem feels simultaneously real and symbolic.

    This is a thinking person’s drug movie. The plot develops slowly as we see various characters doing things and having conversations that seem unrelated or inconsequential, but the great cast and the very smart dialog keep you engaged and make you eager to see how all this will come together. When it does, you can feel the danger the characters are in and the remorse they have, both for poor choices and for misunderstandings that carry life-altering consequences. The outstanding acting (especially by Fassbender) and the film’s superior score draw you in and then propel you through plot points that you may see coming, but still generate suspense. This movie makes us think – while putting together the puzzle, once all the pieces have finally been revealed, and in the film’s life lessons, both implied by the plot and insightfully expressed by the characters. I think that “The Counselor” builds too slowly and doesn’t explain some characters’ actions clearly enough, but Cormac McCarthy’s script is generally well-written and Ridley Scott’s direction is excellent. “A-“

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