The Counselor (2013) Poster


User Reviews

Add a Review
452 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
Drowns under the weight of cryptic dialogue and abstract storytelling.
Brent Hankins24 October 2013
With three of his novels being adapted into critically acclaimed films, Cormac McCarthy has opted to try his hand at screen writing, and the fruits of his labor can be seen in The Counselor. Directed by Ridley Scott, the film stars Michael Fassbender as a high-priced lawyer who decides to dabble in something a bit less than legal in order to make some extra cash.

Against the advice of associates Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Westray (Brad Pitt), The Counselor (whose name is never mentioned) has somehow gotten himself involved in the drug trafficking business, although the film remains ambiguous about the specifics. Motivated by the love of a beautiful woman (Penelope Cruz) and the desire to maintain the lifestyle he's enjoyed for so long, he never takes into account the sort of consequences he may be subjected to, should things not go according to plan.

As the trailers for the film make abundantly clear, things do not, in fact, go according to plan - at least, that's what we're led to believe, since the details of The Counselor's involvement in said plan are never actually revealed. Despite being warned about this scenario from the very beginning, by nearly every other character in the film, The Counselor remains inexplicably shocked and stunned when things begin to unravel.

Ridley Scott's latest directorial effort is peppered with lengthy scenes that find The Counselor engaged in conversations with other characters as they try to impart kernels of wisdom, truth and philosophy. Unfortunately, first-time screenwriter McCarthy fails to realize that he's not writing a novel here. Despite the brilliance of his literary works, he doesn't take into account the fact that living, breathing people rarely speak in monologues, and there's scarcely an ounce of naturally delivered dialogue in any of these exchanges.

Indeed, if you watch closely you can actually see the actors struggling to wrap their heads (and mouths) around these complex conversations that are surely meant to sound intelligent, but come across as anything but. It's hard to find fault with the talented cast, but when working with such messy material, it's difficult to be at the top of your game.

Despite the script's shortcomings, The Counselor provides enough intrigue to keep things moving along for about 90 minutes or so. The problem, of course, is that the film grinds to a complete and utter halt with another half hour still left in the tank, and the final 30 minutes is some of the most excruciatingly boring cinema I've seen this year. It's a frustrating and befuddling experience, and I left the theater wondering exactly what the hell had happened, both in front of the camera and behind it.

-- Brent Hankins,
455 out of 573 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Counselor is so in love with itself that it gives no one else a reason to love it, let alone care.
Andrew Gold6 March 2016
The Counselor is one of the most bizarre movies I've ever seen. Ever since it came out I was intrigued how it got very mixed reviews when it had such an amazing cast and crew. But now I know. I'll start with the positives because there actually is plenty to like in this movie. The acting first and foremost is phenomenal, particularly Fassbender and Bardem. It's the only reason you care about anything that's happening. The directing is slick and stylish, and there are a few scenes that are actually brilliant to see unfold. Some lines of dialogue are powerful. Cameron Diaz was good. I'm already running out of positive things to say so let's get right into it.

This movie is a hot mess. There are a hundred characters in this damn thing, it's over 2 hours long when it shouldn't have been, every scene could've been cut in half and the movie would've been all the better for it. It's hard to keep up with all the crap going on because it's so scatterbrained in its storytelling. And that's weird to say because Bardem's character tells some really captivating and hilarious stories. But the movie itself is so wordy and self-indulgent that even if you want to keep up with everything that's happening, there's no good reason to. It's an exercise in tedium after a while. It's like the writer said, "Let's see how many words I can squeeze into this scene before the audience has no idea what the f*ck it's about," and he did that for every damn scene. And again, there are glimmers of brilliance, hell the actual story is really interesting, but goddamn that just makes it all the more frustrating.

The plot can be boiled down to a lawyer getting himself in a bad situation with drug guys and how he tries to get out of it. It sounds like a focused plot, but the movie complicates it beyond comprehension. One minute I'm totally entranced by what's happening on screen, anxiously awaiting what's going to happen next, and then the movie will jump to a scene with random characters we've never seen before talking about nonsense, and they just keep talking and talking until I forget what I was entranced with in the first place. Seriously, if every scene in the movie was cut in half, it could be an excellent crime thriller. There are some truly brutal moments in the movie, and some thought-provoking ones, but they get stretched out and morphed to the point of bewilderment. Some of the lines in this movie are cringe-worthy. Like, did they really have to repeat what the other person said in five different ways? No? That's what I thought. And that's why this movie pisses me off.

The Counselor will definitely impress some people. If you can handle an absolute clusterf*ck of a movie with a few amazing scenes and superb acting then you'll probably enjoy it. But even that makes it sound better than it is, because the great scenes are so few and far between you're left thinking, "Why on earth did they go in this direction? They had something great here!" It's a baffling movie, really, and the more I think about it the more it upsets me because of how great it could've been. Its potential was so clear, it's like they tried to make it as convoluted and stupid as possible.

Worst of all, the movie takes itself dead seriously. It thinks it's so great, and again for the millionth time, IT COULD'VE BEEN. But no, The Counselor refuses to take other people into consideration. It's so in love with itself it gives no one else a reason to love it, let alone care. Watch at your own risk.
44 out of 54 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Who Should Be The One Counseling?
FilmMuscle26 October 2013
Normally, I fully appreciate bleak films with utterly despicable characters that leave you thinking rather than leaving the theater with a smile on your face, joyous to the fact that the hero saved the day yet again. Sorry, that's not my kind of story as overdone as it is. I prefer brutal realism where humanity is depicted in a much less phony manner. That's exactly what The Counselor promises as its characters take fairly regrettable paths- flawed people that make mistakes in a criminal environment. Some are more oblivious to it (or outright merciless), and some are much more humane in their methods. At first glance, it seems as if it's impossible for The Counselor to be proved a disappointment from the looks of its amazing cast (the likes of Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, and Penelope Cruz), exceptional director with a credible resume, and a totally prestigious author signed on for his first screenplay. In addition, it appears to be a crime thriller, which definitely commences my adrenaline rush because it's personally my favorite genre.

Unfortunately, this film is a perfect example of "don't judge a book by its cover" (whether positively or negatively; people just love positivism so they usually associate the idiom with negativism). To simply put it, the story is a complete mess right from the start. We have our main character who goes by "Counselor" (played by one of my favorites, Michael Fassbender) confusingly dropped into this situation. How did he end up in this predicament? Why did he choose to pursue such a perilous and illicit path? Basically, the movie never explains anything. You're left in wonderment, attempting to figure out who is on whose side. Who wants to kill them exactly? Characters end up in random places, and the story never even bothers to explain how the two characters even know each other. The script just conveniently places two movie stars in one scene without an effectively developed context to service it. What follows are countless scenes where characters engage in conversation, vaguely discussing the circumstances.

The dialogue also feels vastly strange because the characters don't talk like actual people do in reality. Their speech sounds quite literary as they spout metaphor after metaphor, coupled with complex vocabulary. With that being said, I had no issue with it at first. In that, I mean I held no issue with the style of speech. What I did have an issue with was the way the characters spoke in a way that fully befuddled the viewers. It's like only the characters are in on it the entire way without the audience's understanding. In essence, it makes for an inconvenient and confusing experience.

Speaking of the cast, Javier Bardem was really the only one that stood out to me. Frankly, Cameron Diaz had me bewildered. She's supposed to be from Barbados with an accent- See, I wasn't even sure whether she was sporting an accent or not. At times, it felt like she had an accent going on, and then in other moments, she was speaking fluent and clear English; so I have no idea what was going on there. Even then, the film could've easily hidden all these flaws by presenting us with a thrilling and suspenseful plot, but it actually turned out to be incredibly uneventful. The scope didn't feel as exciting as it was supposed to be, and it definitely wasted an incredible amount of potential. So yes, I'm absolutely saddened; this was one of my most anticipated films of this year, if not my most anticipated, and it ended up falling embarrassingly flat.

There were a few disturbingly violent scenes that boosted the film's tone, for lack of a better term, literally, and reminded us of the excellence of No Country for Old Men. You're also met with an outrageous sex scene that's equally disturbing and sexy for some, and those scenes might be the only snippets of The Counselor remembered down the road. The ending was also not very reassuring, cutting to the credits unexpectedly shortly after another monotonous and ambiguous conversation. The only decent element of this movie was its soundtrack, but then again, its quality could've just been determined in comparison to the oddity and nuisance that the rest of the film consisted of. In sum, the best way to describe The Counselor is "brutally unsatisfying." I felt no sense of satisfaction by the time it drew to a close, and everything simply felt so meaningless and forgettable. There's no question that it left a bad taste in my mouth, and I sincerely hope that Ridley Scott ups his game sometime soon.
287 out of 400 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Counselor proves that talented people can produce a horrendous mess
jenn-haight160224 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
When the names Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy are connected to a project, one can't help but visualize the noir visual poetry of Scott's Blade Runner and think of the harsh, grim storytelling excellence of Cormac McCarthy. Unfortunately their project, The Counselor, lacks all of the wonder that has gained them respect in the film industry.

The story, the first original screenplay written by Cormac McCarthy, is meant to be didactic but instead comes off as a pedantic mess. It clomps where it should glide and leaves film-goers expecting more than they receive. The story is about a lawyer, The Counselor, who somehow (that is never explained), is brought into a drug deal of some kind (which is never clarified), to an extent that we aren't privy to. There is also a secondary tier of characters who The Counselor knows, many of whom are also involved in the drug deal yet we never learn why or how they're involved; not what I was expecting from a man heralded as the most important writer in the country. Add to the soggy script McCormack's usual lack of understanding about women, his fascination with unnatural sex and predictable, but not particularly interesting violence. There are dozens of nonsense plot turns and character inconsistencies. Long amounts of time are spent in developing characters that never appear to have any significance in the film. Wise men abound; there's a wise diamond expert, drug cartel lord, and a couple of un-identified wise men. Meanwhile, the only three women in the film are a whore, a personified animal and nun. There are a few other women to be seen; either dancing in bikinis or pouring coffee.

Whether it comes from the script or was added as an artistic touch from Scott, there is an infusion of grade school obvious symbolism throughout the film which is so blatantly obvious it borders on being offensive. The good guys live in completely white houses and the bad guys all drive black vehicles, that sort of thing. One of the many weaknesses of the film is the cartoon-like quality of the characters. It's difficult to determine if they were written that way or if it was an artistic decision on the part of Scott. Either way the experiment was a failure. While the cartoon effect can be used deftly in film, in this picture it creates one more bruise on an all around achingly painful film.

Occasionally a disastrous script can still work on some level if there are exceptional performances. Unfortunately the two leads, Michael Fassbender and Cameron Diaz, are the weakest links in the picture. Michael Fassbender, as the good guy who made a bad choice, is meant to keep us engaged, even if we don't understand his motives or his reactions. We should feel something with or for the character. His performance is so flat that even at his most sniveling, snot-flying crying moments the audience sits in a numbed daze.

Cameron Diaz is painfully inept for the lead role in which she is cast. She's supposed to be terrifying and mysterious, but instead comes off as not understanding the meaning of most of her lines as she recites them in a staccato tone reminiscent of a poor high school performance. It is such a clunky performance that she often emphasizes the wrong word in lines of dialog. As if her performance isn't ludicrous enough she is also saddled with a ridiculous appearance. Her character is literally designed to look like a cheetah. Her hair is sculpted to resemble the cat and she is tattooed from behind the ear all the way down her back with a cheetah pattern. The film opens and ends with a hit-you-over-the-head-with-a-frying-pan obvious symbol that she is the hunter. We're told repeatedly that she has "done everything," and she says that she has "done very bad things" yet the only example we are given is a sophomoric, insulting, male erotic fantasy in the form of masturbation. The final scene of the film, which should be edifying and revelatory, instead is painfully predictable and full of the hunter symbolism which represses any message that could survive Diaz's droll delivery.

image Javier Bardem, with his crazy troll hair and unthinkable clothing combinations, is ironically the most human of all the characters and perhaps it's due to his exceptional acting prowess. He is forlorn and powerful; confused and focused. The complexities that he brings to the part offer a welcome respite from the bland work by the leads.

Brad Pitt shows up in all of the advertising but his part is minute. He plays an urban cowboy of sorts; he dresses in outdated polyester cowboy garb and is smart enough to have a well planned exit strategy if things go wrong. We are supposed to believe that this same man would fall for an obvious female infiltrator and that he would order Heineken at a bar in El Paso, TX. His character would never order an import. Conflicting minor details like this compound the myriad of larger problems with the film.

Penelope Cruz's beauty and talent is completely wasted. Her character is so one dimensional you feel as if you can see through her. She is stereo-typically the "wife" in the "wife" or "slut" scenario to the point that she wears a cross necklace, talks about going to church, is hesitant to talk dirty to her lover and doesn't want to know the value of her diamond.

There have been no early reviews for the film. Many wanted to believe that it was to refrain from plot spoilers and maintain an air of mystery. The truth is much less interesting. It's because this is a horrible film in every possible way.
217 out of 305 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
one of the greatest morality plays of all time...
A_Different_Drummer27 November 2016
Disguised as a suspense thriller ... and with a script to die for. Literally.

Oddly I was reminded of Claires Knee (1970) a film that was supposed to be about erotica but in fact, if you listened to the dialog, was also a morality play disguised as something else.

I will be honest -- I gave it a 9 and almost gave it a 10. That is because as a reviewer I look for flaws -- much the same same way one of the characters in this film first looks at a diamond.

And I found none. The cinematography, casting, acting, scripting, direction - all perfect.

That such a perfect film was created to tell an abstract story will be a loss to some viewers but a gain to others.

The script, pound for pound, almost has more memorable quotes than Godfather. I have seen a lot of films -- too many -- but will never forget the dialog about "coincidence" or "grief."

Highly recommended. A great film, but not an easy film.

And as good as Fassbinder is -- and he is -- Cameron Diaz steals the movie even with minimal screen time, using her eyes like a weapon, as far from her role in Charies Angels as the earth is from the moon.
14 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Huge talent in horrifyingly bad movie
lance2425 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
If you believe that the test of a film is the use it made if the talent available, then The Counsellor is sure to be among this (or any other) year's worst movies. After getting his fair share of praise and love (justifiably so) for his achievements as a novelist, Cormac McCarthy's first-ever film script is laughably bad and a total embarrassment. I'm no youngster but anyone who thinks that a novelist can START writing screenplays at 80 needs to think again. I was overwhelmed by the lack of structure, incoherence of plot and sheer pomposity of the characters. Who knew that murderers from the drug cartels ruminate on philosophical aspects of life an death, morals and consequence? In any event, time for director Ridley Scott to start thinking about new horizons as well. Every single episode of his TV produced series "Numbers" was better than this film. What's left after a terrible script and a bad director---bad acting! Everyone involved, including many award winning and nominated actors gives a career worst performance. I was really angry during the movie and became angrier when I thought about the sheer waste of so much talent. Since I dislike reviewers who give movies a "1, I'm going with a "2" but only because Cameron Diaz made love to a Ferrari. I ain't kidding.
279 out of 408 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Be your own judge.
eebmtl28 October 2013
Was so very reluctant to go see this due to the amount of extremely negative reviews, glad I didn't listen.

Like all of you I was drawn to the writer, director & cast combination which told me this film had a chance at greatness, well I'm not so sure about greatness but this is a very good movie, one which both my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed.

The plot is secondary, only the story outline is necessary ("honest citizen" buys into a onetime drug deal which goes bad and there are serious consequences) to act as a framework around the events that unfold. We do not need details of who, what , where or when regarding the drug deal, we only need to see the greed and the evil it leads to, play out.

Yes the dialogue is metaphorical, gloriously so, and the actors deliver this as it was intended to be delivered by the writer and the director. This dialogue is superb in setting the ominous tone for the film, we do not need to know who is picking up what and delivering to whom, we only need to know that it didn't happen and somebody has to pay, pay a price beyond imagining! While there are moments of amusement, it is a deadly serious morality tale that does not play out to our long established preconceptions. Decisions today can make for impossible decisions and terrifying consequences tomorrow.

Do not judge, rate or review this film within the traditional confines of typical Hollywood movies, as it barely applies, maybe it does to the star power but not to the content nor the execution.

I really cannot wait to see this movie again, I give this an 8/10.
327 out of 491 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
I'm not a contrarian, but…
Markus Emilio Robinson26 October 2013
With a star studded cast, featuring the likes of Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt, and directed by Ridley Scott, with a script from one of the greatest American novelists alive, Cormac McCarthy, obviously I went to see "The Counselor" on face value alone. Admittedly, aside from the fact that this is not a very cinematic endeavor, the first half of this film is pretty bad. That is to say the first act and a half is far too cryptic for its own good, with dialogue that is in love with its own double entendres and lines which sound as though they would be more at home in a novel than spoken aloud by human beings. But, if you're patient enough to stay with this film until the second hour, you will be rewarded by witnessing how McCarthy and Scott weave this almost action-less tale together, quietly guiding audiences into a brilliantly disturbing and hypnotic finale.

The performances (the standout coming from Bardem) are all fine here. These are all great actors, so what else would you expect? Same goes for the direction. The wildcard with "The Counselor" was always McCarthy's transition from novel to feature film scriptwriting; a transition that was a first act failure on the grounds of dialogue alone. In that same breath, his high caliber story of a lawyer who gets involved in drug trafficking and his masterful construction redeems him almost entirely by the time it's all said and done.

As I alluded to before, there is not much action here, which may give the illusion to some that sequences are occurring but nothing is progressing, which may also promote watch checking. But within this conversation based film, as much as I would have preferred the dialogue to have been handled with more subtlety, the subtext is always interesting, gaining its momentum from the converging stories within the second half.

Final Thought: "The Counselor" is the film equivalent of an artichoke. You either like it or you don't. And both are understandable. Maybe one day, once all of the critical heat dies down, history will look more kindly on this movie. But for now, there will be flaws within it that a majority of mainstream audiences just won't be able to forgive.

Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
106 out of 155 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Felt like a two hour ad for Calvin Klein, but a really good one
dstroink29 October 2013
The Counselor is the work of a fantastic director, an incredible writer and an A+ cast but sadly it just wasn't put together well enough to be an effective movie. It was written by the talented Cormac McCarthy, this is his screenplay debut and his lack of experience shows, he seems to forget that he is writing the script of a modern film and not a novel or a play. Many of the scenes are lengthy, one on one exchanges between two characters who speak in long extended monologues. The dialog itself is sharp, cryptic and original, I loved hearing the characters' philosophical banter about death, religion, sex, acceptance etc. The simple yet tragic story however is muffled by the heavy abstract dialog, which seems to be trying to be as far from expository as possible. It's hard to make out the details of what's actually happening and you constantly find yourself asking, what's the point? I did however enjoy the writing, it was dark and beautiful and I'd love to see McCarthy return to this style in another, perhaps more illustrative script.

The characters, who are portrayed by some of the most talented actors out there, are all ambiguous, intellectual, bad-asses. It's fun to see slick, eccentric characters like these, but there is no variety, everyone is simply a beautiful and sadistic human being and it becomes very boring to watch. Nobody is lovable, or realistic, or funny or imperfect. It is also impossible to become invested in the characters or the story line. Just a bunch of cool people wearing expensive sunglasses saying and doing cool things, which is enjoyable, but not for a solid two hours.

The cinematography is exceptional, each shot has the aesthetic quality of a well thought out photograph. There was clearly a lot of thought put into camera angles, and where characters and objects were placed within the frame. I was never bored admiring the exotic, luxurious locations captured with such skill.

All in all, the ambitious dialog, the beautiful cinematography and the very capable cast, coupled with a very intense soundtrack made for a film that successfully created a very dark, poignant tone. Unfortunately the story was unclear, despite being very basic. The characters did not contrast each other at all, and it was hard to give a damn about any of it. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in film since I did have a good time and I think there's a lot to take away from it. As a film maker, it's interesting to see a group of people who are all masters of their craft, sincerely try there best, and make something that is so completely ineffective.
136 out of 206 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
spendthedaytogether24 November 2013
I actually hadn't heard of The Counselor before a friend invited me to see it, so I just quickly checked the one sentence synopsis at the top of the page on IMDb. Basically, I had no expectations or knowledge about what the movie was about or who was in it.

I honestly have very little understanding of what happened in this movie. It is one of the most confusing, disjointed films I have ever watched. From reading about it, you can see that it has a good cast and pretty original storyline, so what could go wrong? Believe me, what you actually see on the screen seems to defy logic.

The first 10 or 15 minutes make the most sense, relatively speaking, but it's all downhill from there. The movie jumps from scene to scene with little explanation or context as to what is happening or why. I kept patiently waiting for everything I was seeing to be tied together, but it never happens. You keep seeing the same actors in a new scene, but there's nothing telling you what it has to do with the scene you just watched before it.

I understand films do not necessarily need to follow a linear plot; plenty of other films have proved this to be true. However, if not following a linear plot, there should at least be SOMETHING that tells you how each scene is related, or at the very least a culmination at the end which explains all the previously unanswered questions. It just never happens. I left the theater more confused than ever, and the friend I was with felt the same way. I don't think we even cared that much about what happened anymore and were frankly just glad we didn't have to watch any more.

I don't know how anyone could really enjoy this movie unless they were looking for something with no action, no plot and dialog performed by actors who seem more bored than I was just watching the film. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was the worst or even one of the worst movies I've ever seen, because it very easily could have made for a decent watch, I just have absolutely no idea what the director was trying to do.
260 out of 414 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Counselor: A Shakespearean tragedy of greed and desperation.
Ser_Stephen_Seaworth25 October 2013
The Counselor, like previous McCarthy adaptations, is gorgeous to behold, but unlike No Country and the others, this one is unnervingly bright, lensed in iridescent yellows and grungy grim tones. It lacks the scope of a Gladiator or a Kingdom of Heaven, instead acting as a somehow intimate, character-driven (or perhaps "dialogue-driven" is better) tale. It is, one could say, Ridley Scott's first fable (yes, Legend notwithstanding).

Allow me to explain. The story, like most McCarthy tales, is simple: a nameless lawyer (Fassbender), madly in love with his fiancée Laura (Cruz) and seeking to provide for her and give her the life she deserves, decides to get in a once-and-I'm-out deal: namely, to get involved in a venture dealing with twenty million dollars worth of drugs being ferried to the States from Mexico. The counselor's associates in this job are the flamboyant Reiner (Javier Bardem, returning to McCarthy's bleak world yet again, though this time sporting a Brian Grazer-esque hairdo instead of Chigurh's pageboy) and middleman Westray (Brad Pitt, sporting a Tom Petty style), both of whom warn the counselor that this deal will change his life in ways he cannot fathom. The film also focuses on Reiner's Argentinean squeeze Malkina, played by Cameron Diaz. Malkina is a glammed-up diva in the Donatella Versace vein (comparable to Kristin Scott Thomas's equally diva-like turn in Only God Forgives; they could be sisters), sporting a cheetah-spot design tattooed to her throat and a felicitous feline sneer everywhere she turns (she even owns a pair of cheetahs that she sics on desert jackrabbits for her and Reiner's amusement).

Of course, as is wont to happen in McCarthy's world, something goes wrong, sh_t hits the fan, and the lives of every character hangs in the balance. Characters are sliced, diced, shot and (in one gruesome instance) subject to a weapon of grim ingenuity that involves a motor, a loop of unbreakable wire, and a jetting gout of blood. Yet the film also brings levity to it in spades, to the point that The Counselor could almost be considered a black comedy. Much of the film's action is "interaction," as the counselor deals with the other characters that warn, judge, and even blame him for the capricious trick of fate that has sealed their own. McCarthy's penchant for cipher-like monologues is in full play here, and it can bog down an unwary traveler. That said, for all of its deep soliloquies and terse warnings, the film is not indecipherable, and at times McCarthy's caustic wit comes across brilliantly.

Scott and McCarthy manage to coax some pretty impressive work from their cadre. Michael Fassbender, whose character is himself little more than an archetype (the "good man who f_cks up once and pays for it dearly"), is actually quite good here, and I'm probably in the minority when I say that I prefer his turn here over his acclaimed performance in Shame (a film I respect but have little affection for). Cruz makes the most of a rather lightweight part, and even though her character exists as little more than an ideal, it still works. Bardem is, for once, the comic relief, playing an entrancingly funny motormouth who is the polar opposite of his last McCarthy character. He is the one who has the most fun with the dialogue and despite English being his second language, he nails Cormac's every nuance. Pitt's Westray is laid-back yet high-strung, and seems an easy fit for the actor, giving every line a wry twist. But the true revelation is Diaz's against-type turn. She is the character audiences will remember most of all, and not just because of her fornication with a Bentley (it makes sense in context . . . I think). There is a hard, wicked steel in her performance, almost predatory. There are other memorable turns, like Ruben Blades's one-scene wonder and even Dean Norris of Breaking Bad fame, that make this a truly sumptuous ensemble.

The Counselor is not an easy watch, both because of its violence and because Scott and McCarthy (I have to credit both men; it feels like such a collaborative creative effort) don't dumb it down. It's a simple story, but it's also one that feels like Scott's most mature work. It isn't without its flaws (certain scenes run on a bit long, while others feel a bit short-changed), but The Counselor results in a perverse viewing that is, in a word, unforgettable.
235 out of 389 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Neitzche, Darwin, Bergman, McCarthy
fsani7017 March 2014
The film may be judged upon different merits. Technically, it is a thing of great beauty in the style of super-crisp cinematography and high-level production values frequently seen in Scott's contemporary films such as American Gangster and Prometheus - there is nothing to be faulted in this area of the film's construction. I believe that the writing is that which has created the vast disparity in professional reviews. The New York Times (?) reviewer gave the film her highest marks whereas others viewed the film as being sub par or even disastrous. How could this be? Perhaps because of the origins of the script, from the hand of McCarthy, a literary master. I was recently watching a Tennessee Williams play adapted for the screen by Kazan, and I could feel the weight of its literary origins. This was how I felt watching TC. The plot, setting, and, more generally, the world, McCarthy creates are vehicles for the theme, that of the human condition, man's striving, reaching, cunning, and ultimately, his animal nature. This was the risk taken by Scott in allowing such a heavy-weight to pen the script, that the film would be driven by theme rather than plot, and that it would not quite fit in with today's banal, CGI-infected cinema culture, which, perhaps, it pretended to be by its glossy exterior. The "overly-long" dialog was especially trying for short attention spans but those who may have enjoyed the great cinematic classics over the past century will adore this creation. Through thematic contrivance is created a jungle filled with various inhabitants. Through a form of Darwinian selection, the weak are slowly exiled from this unforgiving world until only those with an appetite for blood and an intolerance for weakness are allowed to remain. There is enough blood and perversion to keep you smiling, but the weight of its humanity will grip your soul. Please ignore the critics, Mr. Scott, and continue allowing your cinematic muse to light your path, even if Hollywood keeps telling you that you must help pay the bills. (See Mr. Welles, not Mr. Spielberg.)
23 out of 32 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Flawed Perfection
pulpfaction0627 October 2013
Went and saw The Counselor tonight. It is very different than it's advertised, or what people may be expecting. On the outside it looks like a thriller, and it does have the set up of a good thriller, but its more just a dark brooding and sometimes darkly humorous drama that has thriller like moments. I'm fairly certain if you liked No Country for Old Men the style won't be all that different to you, since it is written by Cormac McCarthy like the source material for that one was, except The Counselor was personally written by his hand alone. I've read reviews complaining its too predictable but I feel like that's the point, as it involves a relatively "good man" getting in bed with a drug cartel and everyone kind of tells him to be sure that he understands, that bad things could/will happen. I don't see this as a complaint, since A.) real people get involved in this stuff knowing bad things can happen despite all the warnings heard ahead of time and B.) some of the obvious foreshadows have great pay offs, and C.) knowing what's to come and watching anyways has a sort of knowing dread about it. Anyways, I've read a couple reviews offering it high praise and a lot of them completely bashing it, I'm somewhere in the middle but leaning more toward the former positive critique. It is a slow moving film, with lots of dialogue, and every character seems to get a lengthy monologue.
129 out of 214 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Wayne192130 March 2014
One reviewer quipped that The Counselor is "not for the average movie-goer". The "average movie-goer" probably enjoys toilet humor, sophomoric dialog, and endless, often pointless action scenes piled one on top of the next, ad nauseam. So, I agree, if you fit that category, this film is not for you. On the other hand, if you are among the diminishing number of movie-goers who actually enjoys deeply portentous dialog (this is a GOOD thing), first-rate acting, and a story line leading to a denouement that that will leave you wanting to see this film again and again, then this is a film for you. It contains (but not by design) probably one of the most effective "anti-drug" messages since "Traffic"; but more interestingly, it is so well told that I sincerely hope you ignore reviewers here who don't agree with me that it is a Ridley Scott masterpiece. 10/10.
13 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Donal Cullen17 May 2014
Apparently I am one of the few who came into this movie with no pre- conceived ideas of what it would actually be like. I saw it and got it as it was directed by Ridley Scott, written by a great author and had a decent cast list. I never saw any trailers or reviews and just had the briefest of description of the story. I'll tell ya, its the only way to go. On the other hand this can also backfire with some movies....a lot of it is not worth pursuing but for this particular movie it was one of the real pleasures of movie watching. The film is one of the best I have seen for a long, long, time. From the direction, to the story (Holy man what a script, absolutely brilliant) to the superb acting all round, it had everything...and in buckets. As an example each of the main characters gets a chance to make a speech and all do well (my favourite being Bruno Ganz's)and if people were left totally bemused by the film after watching the trailer then you need to stop watching trailers. I have not watched any for this and probably for the better. As for the points about the plot going nowhere are the story being disjointed I would say to these people ...... stop watching trailers! Everything is very well explained by the Mexican drug barron near the end and funnily enough probably at the beginning by Javier Bardem. If you want a movie about drug violence and explosions and murders and the rest there are plenty out there. This is sooo not the movie for you. Just to sum up this is a brilliant movie and worth seeing on the fly. All the actors give probably one of their best performances in their roles and Scott's direction is fantastic as always. But where the movie really stands out (and really how movies should be first judged) is in the script. Highly recommended. 10/10
11 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Brutal, meditative, and smart. The surprise of the year.
arteminimal23 November 2013
I write this as a Mexican living near the border, meaning, as a direct witness of the drug war. I loved Heli, and I loved the Counsellor, this is why.

I went to the cinema to see "The Counselor" expecting to watch a crime movie almost as entertaining as the old school Scorcece. It ended up being a fantastic and sublime meditation about the process of dehumanization that drug trafficking detonates (I'm using the word 'sublime' here in its Kantian definition: Any phenomena that surpasses our imagination and make us watch in anguish or awe). Fantastic dialogs, which although unlikely because we will never find lawyers and killers as poetic as the ones depicted on this movie (Cormac McCarthy, after all, is a great writer) summarize and propose precise reflections on how little we really understand about the violence and brutality of drug trafficking. It's not cryptic dialogs as some suggest, you just have to pay close attention to the details.

Adding that the violence displayed in the film is unbelievably cruel considering that this is a AAA movie ( big budget, great director, big-name casting, famous writer, etc), this become the most pleasant surprise I've watched this year. And the most politically incorrect: You never submit a AAA's audience to this kind of dialog and cruelty, yet Scott risk it, with great results.

I do not recommend it as a film that intents to be realistic. Scott never wanted to do that. The intention of this film is to be a poetic articulation of the distance between humanity and inhumanity and the process that transforms one into the other.

10/10 The movie of the year for me.

I don't care the critics are destroying it. This is one of those moves that will make me seem like a hipster (Maybe I am one): People are simply not getting it.
24 out of 35 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A dark, bleak masterpiece about predators - 10/10
rockenrohl26 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Don't believe the bad reviews here: If you love intelligent, really dark gangster movies, this is definitely one to see.

It's so sinister it hurts - but not in an "in your face" way, but gradually. McCarthy has written a piece about predators (very eloquent predators - the dialogs, or rather monologues, are a thing of real beauty). And don't let anyone tell you they are not good because nobody talks like this. This is not the point of this movie, anyone who wants a realistic, mindless action thriller is in the wrong movie. These are dark poetic gems, perfectly brought to life on the big screen.

The plot is merciless. There's no relief (some great comic relief moments aside, but they leave the viewers as puzzled as the characters in those scenes), the violence is shot in a way that shows you what violence is (it hurts, it's terrible, there is nothing noble about it).

The predators (and this is maybe the main theme of this movie) triumph all the way, to the point where it almost physically hurts. Diaz is perfect as the ice cold greedy killer (in big cat tattoos), this is, in my humble opinion, her best work ever. As viewers, we are left as baffled by the predators' moves as are the many innocent bystanders we see again and again (in restaurants, on the streets, in Mexican bars).

There are, however, many people with redeeming qualities (if you know and like McCarthy's work, think the ending of "The Road"). This is where the word "counselor" clearly becomes ironic: He does not counsel anyone, he just listens, he gets counsel throughout the movie. And even all the predators (only Diaz is purely evil beyond redemption) have good counsel for him. He just does not listen to anyone, and that is his downfall. Even while he really does his job as counselor, in prison with the perfect Rosie Perez, he just receives orders. There's also the brief, brilliant appearance of Natalie Dormer towards the end - here, we get a brief glimpse of humanity, too. And, of course, we get it in Laura's love (great as Diaz' opposite: Penélope Cruz) - doomed, because the counselor cannot listen.

Acting was very, very strong throughout. And visually, the whole thing is a feast, too. Not just because Scott knows what he's doing in every scene. Whoever chose the settings and clothing should get an award, it was just perfect in every way.
62 out of 101 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Counselor: I Advise You to Stay Away
Brick Movie Reviews28 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Down in Mexico, drugs flow like water. When a successful lawyer decides to go into business with criminals to get a piece of the action, the blood starts flowing too. The Counselor focuses on the Counselor (Michael Fassbender) and his business dealings after he becomes engaged to Laura (Penelope Cruz). With things going smoothly in his life, the Counselor tries to make some money on the side by getting himself mixed in with drug trafficking and opening a club with his friend, Reiner (Javier Bardem). Being a successful businessman and criminal, Reiner is mixed up in a confusing sexual relationship with Malkina (Cameron Diaz) who ultimately has ulterior motives from standing by Reiner's side. With the club being funded by Westray (Brad Pitt), things for the Counselor could not be better, that is until one of his clients, Ruth (Rosie Perez), calls the Counselor from jail, and asks him to get her son released from jail over a speeding ticket.

Thinking nothing of it, the Counselor gets Ruth's son out of jail. Once released, the son meets a man at a coffee house, picks up a device that belongs on the truck that is trafficking drugs, and leaves the meeting. All the while, an assassin had been spying on the meeting, and set a trap for Ruth's son, who speeds down the roads at over 200 MPH. After the son is dead, the assassin collects the device, and leaves the body in the road. The people Ruth's son were working for suspect the Counselor was behind the killing, since he freed the son from jail. Fearing for their lives, the Counselor, Reiner, and Westray scramble to save themselves.

Plain and simple, The Counselor, directed by Ridley Scott, is awful. The movie does not make any sense. The opening scene is an awkward lovemaking scene between Fassbender's Counselor and Cruz's Laura, and then proceeds to have sex as an underlying theme in the movie, which was, in my opinion, completely unnecessary. The movie is confusing enough without adding aspects that do not even remotely make sense in context. Throughout the entire 117 minutes, The Counselor jumps from scene to scene, plot point to plot point, without any sort of transition or explanation. To be honest, I had absolutely no idea what the movie was even about until I looked it up when I got back from the theater. Drugs were only seen twice, at the beginning and the end of the movie, and only mentioned once, which was strange given the fact that the movie was about drug trafficking. The acting was OK. None of the actors stood out and gave memorable performances. The storytelling was sloppy and haphazardly thrown together, and the writing was terrible. Quite frankly, my favorite part of the movie was the end credits.

Of the duds of October movie releases (Runner Runner, The Fifth Estate), The Counselor is by far the WORST of them all. Granted, I gave Runner Runner and OK review and The Fifth Estate an mediocre review at best, I would recommend those movies a thousand times before I would recommend The Counselor once. The movie was sloppily made, confusing, poorly written, uninteresting, and boring. If I could give it a lower number of stars I would but I cannot, so I stick with one star, and I beg you, please save your money.

Rating: 1 of 10 @BrickFilmReview
66 out of 109 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Wasted Talent
ypomoni1324 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
There was nothing for me to like about this movie. The story evolves around a Counsellor and the people surrounding him. For reasons unbeknown to us he decides to go into the drug business, and pseudo-intellectual existential dialogues between the protagonists ensue, with the main focus being on greed and how sexual everything appears to them. Cheetahs chasing jackrabbits is sexual, a yellow Ferrari is so sexual that Diaz' character decides to make-out with it (yes, you read that correctly). The Counsellor is constantly being counselled on life and it's meaning by philosophical drug-dealers and cartel members. The tediousness of these overdrawn, often repetitive and rather self-indulged exchanges make the film feel so ill paced. The chemistry between the two main couples (Fassbender-Cruz, Bardem-Diaz) was non-existent. The characters are hardly developed. Were we suppose to empathise with the Counsellor? The acting was NOT good. The ultimate attraction to this film, for me, was the cast who in it's majority has seldom - if ever - let me down. And yet, here, even they were, to put it mildly, not on top form. The emphasis had been given on the aforementioned dialogue, something that was more obvious when the main plot of the film became increasingly convoluted and thus hard to follow. At the end all I felt was content that it was over. This is, unfortunately, the worst film I've seen this year.
38 out of 60 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A classic that will be recognised in time
luvgonzo26 March 2014
Ridley Scott does a superb job of capturing the essence of McCarthys screenplay, make up your own mind as there are too many negative reviews.

In my opinion this will grow a following and be considered a great film in the future, the performances are superb the story quite simple when you think about it (to many people saying it's complicated, it is not.

It's a cold movie with cold characters and not your usual Hollywood nonsense which is where I think the bad reviews are coming from, people see Scott with Fassbender, Pitt, Cruz etc and expect the usual fair.

Go into this with an open mind and enjoy the story for what it is.
13 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Absolutely underrated Ridley Scott's film
renjiamin9 April 2017
This is my first review in IMDb. And the only reason I write this review is that I think this film is underrated too badly. I like the plot, the direction, the action sequence, the screen play of this film. But what impressed me most is the moral decay and corruption of human beings, the ruthless jungle surviving rules. It escalates the height and remind me of the Greek tragedy of Euripides. Anyway I have confidence this film will be remembered in later decades.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"The Trailer Was Worth Watching" "The Movie Wasn't"
JSplend95414 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This was the type of movie that when you see the preview you say to yourself "Wow, this looks like a good action/thriller". Unfortunately, the trailer was much better than the actual movie.

The Counselor was about a successful attorney who becomes newly engaged, gets greedy, and decides to engage in the drug trafficking business, which predictably leads to his downfall.

There were so many different angles and characters in this movie, that it was hard to keep track of the direction of this movie.

Cameron Diaz gives an honest effort as the sleazy girlfriend, and she actually plays that part to a tee, as in one scene she humps the windshield of a vehicle(don't ask).

Some of the scenes didn't make sense. In one scene a guy spends hours in configuring a wire across a roadway where he was plotting to kill a smuggler on a motorcycle. I guess the audience is supposed to assume that no one- and I mean no-one, uses that roadway for a good portion of the day.

The same could be said about some of the characters in the movie. It appeared as though The Counselor was asking the drug cartel leaders for advice, and they would give these long philosophical speeches that basically amounted to nonsense.

All in all, I had high hopes for this movie, but came away disappointed.
34 out of 56 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Counseling the Counselor
3xHCCH14 November 2013
When I first heard about this film and its pedigreed credentials: Director Ridley Scott, Starring Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt, I was excited to see it. However, because of the very poor reviews and box office performance Stateside, I have tempered my expectations before I went to see it. And so should you.

"The Counselor" refers to the nameless character played by Michael Fassbender. He appears to be a very successful lawyer, happily engaged to a gorgeous, church-going girl (Penelope Cruz). However, for some reason this film never really completely discloses, he still felt the need to get himself involved with a Mexican drug cartel for additional cash, peppered with colorful characters, like the wild-haired Reiner (Javier Bardem), his slinky girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz) and the urban cowboy Westray (Brad Pitt). Will the Counselor get away with both the girl and cash?

When I saw in the opening credits that the script was by Cormac McCarthy, who was responsible for "No Country for Old Men" (which I did not exactly like), I braced myself for one puzzling and boring ride.

However, it was not exactly all boring after all. There were those pockets of incredible tension and violence involving necks which you will not soon forget.

Michael Fassbender was okay as the titular Counselor, but there was nothing about his character which was fully-explored. He is obviously greedy enough to risk everything he had to get himself involved in nefarious criminal activities, but we do not see why. So we end up not caring at all about him. We actually see other characters counsel him, than him counseling others.

Cameron Diaz's femme fatale character Malkina was unexpectedly well- developed. She is certainly no dumb blond bimbo here. Her scenes though were the most perplexing as to where she was coming from. She has a scene on the windshield of a luxury car that was as head-scratching as it was sensually acrobatic.

Javier Bardem is really very comfortable playing these cool sinister types. Penelope Cruz is too good to be true. I expected more out of their characters than what ended up in the final edit we saw, which was disappointing.

I found the character of Brad Pitt the most interesting one of all. Every time Westray was on the screen, the story perks up and even the long conversations he has with the Counselor actually made sense. Too bad Pitt was only in about a third of the film or less.

"The Counselor" comes across as a slick action-filled crime caper film at first glance. However as you watch it, you will realize that it was actually mostly long-winded, unrealistically philosophical conversations and monologues from the most unlikely of characters. I think the main problem is the turgid and generally lifeless script which the talents of the director nor the actors could save.
72 out of 130 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A new level of sinister
Stewball26 October 2013
By the time it's over you realize this is more blood curdling and wicked than any horror tale. But it sneaks up on you. It's like "Savages", "Blow" and "Traffic" all rolled into one that reaches out and punches you in the throat with the scope and depth of the cold blooded darkness it portrays. It disarms you from the beginning with the extensive normality in it's engaging dialogue, it's interesting characters and even humor, especially one scene involving a Ferrari. But even knowing this I doubt anyone would be prepared for where it takes them, unless they come from this world. Written by Cormac McCarthy, it's very similar in tone to his best known work, "No Country for Old Men".

I know some will disagree (well, many already have with the lukewarm ratings and disappointing box office it's getting--the R ratings crowd apparently opting for MTV's "Bad Grandpa", sigh), but I think this is Ridley Scott's best since "Gladiator". The cast is superb, especially Diaz and Bardem; and I gotta plug Natalie Dormer whose character has a small part but makes a tremendous gesture that sets her above the otherwise maleficent current to the story. I'm definitely going to have to watch this again.

It's probably over-the-top irony, but think Glen Frey's "Smuggler's Blues" when the credits roll.

(Edit:) I'm bumping it up from 9 to a 10/10...a masterpiece. There's a couple of possibilities, but I doubt anything's going to surpass it this year.
119 out of 224 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
p-j-bailey-849-67877720 November 2013
Mainly sub standard acting, hum drum story line. All scenes are way too long and just do not work.(esp scene 4/5 way though phone call from car to drug cartel, fall asleep time it lasts that long) Attended showing in Newark on Wed 20/11/13 @17:45. Of the 19 people in 4 left within the first hour, most others took the proverbial it is that poor, honestly, its awful. Still confused as to why the wild cats were in it, the story never even attempted an ending for them, opening scene woman orgasms after 30 secs oral sex (never), masturbation scene on car windscreen is laughable, implausible and utter rubbish, Probably targeting bored teens. Save your money. 0 out of 10 more fun watching grass grow
109 out of 211 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews