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Film Review – The Counselor

2 min read

The first original screenplay by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men, The Road), The Counselor takes you deep into the shadowy, underground world of narcotics smuggling and drug cartels. And it isn’t pretty down there.

The title takes its name from the lead character, an upstanding and straight-laced for all we know El Paso lawyer (Michael Fassbender) who has fallen in love and married an alluring and beautiful latina (Penelope Cruz).   Greed gets the best of him and he gets involved in his first drug-smuggling deal with his friend Reiner (Jarvier Bardem) and middle-man Westray (Brad Pitt), only to see things go terribly wrong, mostly due to coincidence and no fault of his own. However, the unforgiving cartels don’t really listen to excuses and seek to right what they perceive as a wrong against them.  Their violent methods are extreme of course, but they also believe that in some cases, “death is easy” and there are other forms of punishment that inflict a much deeper pain.  Let’s just say that everyone learns a good lesson.

The Counselor

The Counselor takes on McCarthy’s characteristic style for dialogue, with characters telling detailed stories to help define them or foreshadow events. Some people may find it draws out the already vague story excessively, but I found them interesting and funny. Though it is in usually masterful hands with director Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Prometheus), the film is a little disjointed and doesn’t quite fill in the details necessary to always know exactly what is going on and some people may easily get lost in the twists and turns of the story or the brief appearances of shady characters. The few violent scenes are extreme, as are the few sex scenes, and the pace of the film is a little slow as it builds up towards an ending that, if basing it on the expectation of the current studio film formula, may seem a little anti-climactic. So my advice is don‘t…

The casting and acting in The Counselor is fantastic. We see Michael Fassbender in a whole new light, dressed in sleek business suites and talking with an American accent but it is Cameron Diaz who you can’t take your eyes off of.  She is smouldering as Malkina, the double-crossing wife of Renier, and perfectly personifies “beauty and the beast”, just like the pet cheetahs she keeps so she can watch them chase down and kill rabbits.

Though it isn’t perfect, The Counselor gives you a peek into a world that is both opulent and violent, and does it with a very cool, sexy style. The style may not suit everyone’s taste, but it did mine.

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