Movie Review: The Counselor


Stars: Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt

Rated R for graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content and language, Running time 117 minutes, Drama/Thriller/Crime

Compare to: Layer Cake (2006), The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

It seems when Cormac McCarthy writes anything, be it a novel or screenplay, he creates characters with a dark past, a very intense present, and a world where anything can happen. The themes are there, the dialogue is real, and the film can be as thought-provoking as you want it to be.

Now, a beginning, middle and end? That’s where things get a bit difficult to explain.

When a seemingly modest Counselor gets involved with drug-trafficking, his world is turned upside down as his simple plan to make money goes awry and everyone involved may have to pay the price.

And that’s about as much as I can say about the plot without giving anything away or getting tedious with the details. From beginning to end, we’re treated to great scenery of one interesting locale to another; from decadent parties to five-star restaurants, the only people that wear average clothing are the lower class and murderers and thugs. Occasionally, we’re taken to a desert road where a undeserving death takes place but then it’s back to the gathering at a super villain house.

Cheetahs. They have CHEETAHS.

Cheetahs. They have CHEETAHS.

It’s all fun to look at, you see. But for a good time of the movie, you’ll be wondering where it’s going. Not to say that a good movie needs some linear plotline or to spell everything out for you- but to wonder when the picture will start to come together more than halfway through the movie isn’t normally what an audience has in mind when they go to be entertained. Rather than being engaged in the story, you might continually wonder if you missed something from the last cocktail party.

No arguing about the performance from our lead Fassbender. Call me bias, but it seems everything he does is carried out as well as anybody could have done it. His role as a young Magneto in 2011’s X-Men: First Class was about the only aspect that made the movie watchable and he seems to be getting more and more attention regardless of the quality of film he’s in- from Prometheus to 12 Years a Slave (opens November 1) also starring Pitt. His cool demeanor as the Counselor hides an underlying paranoia that grows more and more with every scene that passes. You’re never really sure if he’s got it together or not, but that’s part of the fun.

Everyone in this film should join AA if they survive.

Everyone in this film should join AA if they survive. Drinks all around!

Much of the dialogue is also fun too, with a message behind it applicable to real life situations. Aren’t those the best? “You don’t really know a person until you know what they want.” and If you think you can live in this world and not be a part of it, all I can tell you is you’re wrong.” Lines spoken to Fassbender’s character that seems to believe that by just deciding to go through with a plan is all the work he’s going to have to do. In fact, the latter quote may sum up the entire film, as it’s avarice that compels the characters to do what they do, and their cost may or may not outweigh the benefit.

The real weak link in the film is Diaz. The look for the character of Malkina is spot on for the former exotic dancer turned kingpin’s girlfriend. Her gaudy jewelry, cheetah print tattoos and silver nails maker her appear as Catwoman’s evil twin this was a character, it seemed, could’ve had a long-lasting impression if given to an actress that was able to pull off more than the look. Yet the lines from Diaz’s mouth are like pearls given to a kid. Not that she’s a terrible actress, but lines that should’ve been simultaneously intimidating and poetic sounded more like a first time read-through.

Just be glad you don't her. Or any of them, actually.

Just be glad you don’t know her. Or any of them, actually.

If you go into this one expecting a simple tale of greed, you’ll get it all minus the simplicity. The subtraction of simplicity shouldn’t imply complexity, but rather messiness. Still, a couple death scenes may stick with you long after you watch them as they’re as nasty as they are transfixing and I guess that’s something to think about next time you feel like doing something immoral with even more immoral people.

Grade: C+

Side Note: If you’re a reader of my MBTI posts, this film definitely falls under the ‘Artisan’ category of films.



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