The Counselor

The Counselor is currently in theaters

The Counselor


The Counselor (2013) – Rated R

A lawyer finds himself in over his head when he gets involved in drug trafficking.

Are you really that cold?” – “The truth has no temperature.

One Line Review: Go see The Counselor for the incredible dialogue or avoid it for the rampant misogyny..

I love Ridley Scott. Many of his films are groudbreaking examples of their genre. Alien was a great horror movie that not only spawned five sequels and a prequel but also changed the way films were made. Blade Runner has yet to be equaled. Black Hawk Down is easily the best movie about modern warfare (post-World War II) ever made. Thelma & Louise is one of the best of sadly only a few female buddy movies. Gladiator is a beautiful film about ancient Rome with terrific battle sequences. Yet each of these movies have almost nothing in common with each other.

Even his misfires are provoking. Kingdom of Heaven is fantastic if you watch the director’s cut. Prometheus is gorgeous if flawed from having to shoehorn in the Alien mythos and a few other things. Ridley Scott brings Michael Fassbender over from his virtuoso performance in Prometheus.

It goes without saying that Pulitzer Prize winning author Cormac McCarthy is a fantastic writer. Both Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz have previously appeared in McCarthy adaptations (No Country for Old Men and All the Pretty Horses respectively). McCarthy’s writing is very dark and dense, not making popularity easy. The Counselor is the first script he has written for a movie.

That script is the best reason for recommending this movie. McCarthy’s dialogue is fantastic, weaving in archaic terms (donnybrook) with clever turns of phrase and tonal shifts. The entire script is a morass of moral ambiguity. The plot revolves around a drug deal gone bad in which most of the characters are involved in some way and that’s it.

There are so many things to applaud about McCarthy’s script. We are dropped right in the middle of the story with little to no exposition. You have to pay attention just to keep up with what’s going on. He does follow the gun on the mantelpiece drama rule as two early exposition statements ultimately bear fruit. Our protagonist is only ever referred to as Counselor.

Thankfully Ridley Scott has lined up a fantastic cast. Michael Fassbender is the titular Counselor, a lawyer involved in a drug deal presumably in part to finance a huge diamond engagement ring for his fiancee. Laura, the fiancee is played by Penelope Cruz and is arguably the only ‘good’ character in the film. Javier Bardem (Reiner) and Brad Pitt (Westray) play associates in the drug deal. Cameron Diaz is Malkina, Reiner’s girlfriend.

We never meet the heads of the cartel who set up the deal though many associates make an appearance. There are a few niggling problems with the script in the form of questions that you will have after the film is over, I’m not sure whether that was McCarthy’s intent or if some scenes got chopped, though I will say that McCarthy practices an economy of exposition.

Lots of guest stars pop-up throughout the movie. An uncredited John Leguizamo and Dean Norris (Breaking Bad) conduct some business. Ruben Blades does some wonderful pontificating. Goran Visnjic appears as a banker. Rosie Perez has a juicy minor role as Ruth. All of the actors handle their roles and the rather eclectic dialogue well except Cameron Diaz. On the other hand it is hard to tell whether she dropped the ball or her role is simply horrible.

While I love McCarthy’s plotting, morality, and dialogue, I have to say that a lot of it comes off as misogynistic or filled with 12-year-old-boy syndrome. Also his characters pontificate endlessly, which is reasonable for one or two characters but not for all. That said, I am very much looking forward to what he does next.

People Watch: Look for beautiful Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones) in a brief but vital role.