Movie Review – The Counselor

That’s right – this baby is SPOILER-FREE!



IMDB Rating: 6 out of 10 (7,369 votes)

Director: Ridley Scott

The poster for The Counselor.

The poster for The Counselor.

I’d say ‘The Counselor’ is a dud, but that really would be putting it in terms too kind. ‘The Counselor’ is laughably poor in almost every department. If it weren’t for the persistent and honest performances of Brad Pitt and Penelope Cruz, ones which genuinely makes the other performances seem so much worse in comparison, I would give ‘The Counselor’ a Roger Ebert thumbs down.

But Pitt and Cruz are there, so instead, I will declare ‘The Counselor’ to be very, very, very bad.

Maybe the worst thing about ‘The Counselor’ is just it’s stupidity, it’s pretentiousness, it’s overblown and showy sense of meaning above all else. I can’t say for a fact that I know how different writing a screenplay is to writing a book, but judging by Cormac McCarthy’s latest effort, I would suggest to him that he should stick with novels – something he supposedly does very well (he wrote the novel ‘No Country For Old Men’, a book I am yet to read, which was then adapted into a very good Coen Brothers film). But McCarthy’s script here does not warrant the talent it attracted. Reading the differences from the first draft and the shooting draft, I can’t say the first draft seemed much better, but still, a writer must be responsible for his work unless he comes outright and renounces it. McCarthy is yet to do that for ‘The Counselor’, which surprises and intrigues me, because it truly is a pretty awful piece of work. The dialogue is petty, consistently turgid, pretentious, and so overly philosophising, you will struggle to see the meaning in it all. And even though some of it may be slightly accurate, it is nonetheless completely unrealistic. What woman says ‘Truth has no temperature’? Who in their right mind would utter that phrase?

And are the characters likeable? Are they people we enjoy watching for two hours? Are they real people at all? The answer to all of these questions is no. They are horrible people. All of them. There is one character, that of Laura (Penelope Cruz) who, upon the likely chance of death, would be missed by the audience out of likeability, but besides that, Cormac McCarthy & Ridley Scott give us the chance to observe the lives of some of the world’s worst people. It makes for some of the most dull, nonsensical and frustrating viewing you may ever witness. Malkina (Cameron Diaz) is written in the most misogynistic sense possible, Reiner (Javier Bardem) likes nothing more than having conversations that last way too long, and I still don’t know what the Counselor (Michael Fassbender) actually does for a living, and why he needs to enter the drug business. ‘The Counselor’s own need to have every second sentence be some deep expression of one’s own ability to philosophise doesn’t do itself any favours. I don’t want to talk about each character individually – the review would be 3000 words long – although I’m afraid I might have to. Because if you have a conscience and if you enjoy decent cinema, you will feel nothing for these putrid people.



See, Laura is at least likeable and innocent amidst this trainwreck of a plot/film/concept, and Brad Pitt’s performance as Westray is respectable, although his character is not. But the funny thing is, I didn’t even know Pitt’s character’s name until the last 10 minutes of the film. Maybe I wasn’t paying close attention. But that’s hardly my fault when I’m force-fed a film like this. And the whole thing about ‘The Counselor’ having a main character who remains nameless really speaks to the pompous, inflated conscience of the film. Why shouldn’t he have a name? Why does it seem incredibly forced every time someone calls him “Counselor” instead of a normal name? Perhaps McCarthy, and Scott for that matter, were trying to say something more. For the life of me I can’t figure out exactly what that is.

Are you getting the jist of things here? Everything in ‘The Counselor’ is just so stupid, and for no reason at all besides it’s own prioritising of everything meaning something.

Malkina is married to a man who owns two cheetahs (three counting Malkina), a Mansion, and two Ferraris. But she takes his money, yet seemingly has to steal more so that she can escape this life she has made for herself. This doesn’t make any sense. Actually, life is the wrong word to describe it. It’s much more of just a sequence of pointless events held together by alcohol, sex, money, and underworldly activities. This is the kind of life we’re made to observe. It’s depressing. It’s not interesting, it’s not enjoyable. It’s just a bummer.

There are moments in ‘The Counselor’ where you will just laugh, not out of admiration for a joke, but out of pity and utter contempt at the ridiculousness of every scene, every twist, every element. There’s a scene by a pool involving Malkina and Laura which is both confusing and unnecessary. There’s an over-complication of plot involving the drugs, and their whereabouts. There’s a less than admirable focus on sex which serves absolutely no purpose except to pump a little life into a film shot repeatedly in the head by its own makers. There’s violence shown only because it can. It’s that kind of film, though. It’s pretentious and stupid, bringing ideals with it that only cloud already idiotic dialogue.

‘The Counselor’ is dumb, but not in the way enjoyable dumb movies like ‘Pacific Rim’ are; it’s just plain dumb, with no guidance and no moral compass. It’s a shocking effort from talented people, and it’s the worst film of the year so far.

MY RATING: 1.5 out of 10.

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