The Counselor: Rated “R” (1 hr. 51 min.)
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt
Directed by: Ridley Scott
The Counselor is a very stylishly and elegantly made downbeat and bleak film about how even attractively beautiful and extremely wealthy people can make incredibly stupid decisions and throw in with lowlife criminals and wind up spectacularly flaming out in the most amazing fashion. In this film — presented to us by director Ridley Scott (Body of Lies) and Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men) — portrays the mother of all nightmarish scenario, in which a well-respected lawyer’s one-time (and ill-advised) dalliance with an illegal business deal spirals stunningly out of control.
Michael Fassbender is the Counselor who so totally loves his girlfriend, Laura (Cruz) that it is clear that he would do anything for her, only he is also amazingly stupid and incredibly greedy in that as much as he so clearly has (and against the advice of quite literally everyone around him, he gets himself mixed up with some exceedingly bad people (Drug cartel types), who — quite simply — don’t screw around on a “one time” drug deal to move a couple of million dollars’ worth of their cocaine across the Mexican border into the U.S. Only (as stated) things go astonishingly wrong, putting him squarely in the Jackpot lane for all the harm that can possibly befall to one person without actually happening to him directly.
Needless to say, virtually everyone can see that this is going to go stunningly wrong for essentially everyone in the cast (which it does) but we defy you to pick the actual villain of the piece (we couldn’t right up until the very end — and it was something of a shocker). Yes, this is a dark, bleak, desolate film that is beautiful to watch but more akin to a train wreck than an exotic sunset. Everyone in the film is far too wealthy for their own good Reiner (Bardem — sporting yet another amazingly bad haircut) keeps a couple of jaguars as pets, Malkina (Diaz) has jaguar spots tattooed to her back, while Westray (Pitt) is far too smug for his own good.
Meanwhile the Councilor himself is apparently tired of simply representing drug lords, thieves, murders, and thugs, and wants to enter the game himself, only this is not a sandbox for amateurs or fools (and he is so obviously both). These guys play for keeps, and they don’t allow for do-overs. Needless to say, the Councilor thinks that he can join in and coast along on an easy ride, but there is nothing easy about this trip, and it is a “take no prisoners” type of operation, which he learns to his eternal regret.
Honestly, this film is taking more than its fair share of pot shots, and we feel that it is simply unfortunate in that it is it stylishly off-kilter in a way that will haunt you even as you are watching it. Nearly everyone in the cast plays against type and that is where the real art of this film comes into play. Truthfully, it is not for everyone, but it is is admittedly well worth the watching.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.