Review: The Counsellor – 2/5

Director:  Ridley Scott

Certificate:  18

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

Running Time:  117 min


Plot:  A greed driven lawyer (Fassbender) known only as ‘Counsellor’ bites off more than he can chew when he fronts money for a shipment of drugs from Mexico.


Javier Bardem’s appearance is quite frankly in-saiyan (D’Ball-Z Reference)

Filming on Ridley Scott’s The Counsellor was probably a little tense; Michael Fassbender has to go down on in-film lover Penenlope Cruz, extensively…while her real life husband and co-star Javier Bardem was on set. Apparently he kept turning up on increasingly flimsy pretences. A little intimidated perhaps? He must have seen Shame.

The Counsellor opens on the US/Mexico border and the grand villa of the film’s protagonist, known only as ‘Counsellor’ (Michael Fassbender). Using his position of power as a lawyer, Counsellor has burrowed his way into the drug business through ex-client Reiner (Javier Bardem), with whom he has entered partnership. Counsellor is in way over his head, and hangs around his people so dangerous that they keep Cheetahs instead of Tabby cats. Soon after Counsellor fronts the drug cash to underworld middleman Westray (Brad Pitt) something goes badly wrong. Highly organised rivals hijack the shipment, contained within barrels inside a lorry full of refuse. When the truck of muck disappears the cartel suspect an inside job, and suddenly Counsellor finds himself -and his naïve fiancée Laura – (Penelope Cruz) in serious trouble.

Cormac McCarthy is a well-established novelist, with several of his books (e.g The Road, All The Pretty Horses) adapted to the medium of film, but The Counsellor is his first crack at a screenplay. McCarthy’s script has a lot to say about the insatiable greed which drives man to ruin as well as the parallels between first and third world attitudes towards the ‘commodity’ that is human life. This is all relevant and applied well to the context of the cut throat (or cut head) South American drug trade but The Counsellor’s problem is that it talks too much. There are only so many strung out metaphorical warnings and foreboding parables an audience member can take before they just want something to bloody well kick off. Nobody speaks like that and it detracts from the gritty realism of the films better moments; one paranoia inducing stalk/chase scene will have you looking over your shoulder and shielding your neck all the way home.


Ridley Scott went all out visually- The Counsellor features shot after panoramic shot of sun soaked vista and there is no questioning his ability to film a good old car chase either. Despite the beauty, the unrelenting bleakness of tone and jarring disparity between the white man’s world and the ‘real’ world make you feel like Scott didn’t care. There comes a point where you think he’s just gone: ‘Fuck it, let’s wrap this up and make a film about Noah. WHAT? Aronofsky’s already making it?? Fine, let’s do Moses then.’


On to the cast, and what a cast it is: Fassbender, Diaz, Cruz, Pitt, Bardem. A high calibre cast does not guarantee success, however. Everyone is just fine, barring Cameron Diaz, who fails to intimidate as cling-film clad femme fatale Malkina while Fassbender’s Counsellor, who spends the entire film receiving counsel, could have been done by anyone really.

To get a picture of what The Counsellor is like, imagine watching No Country For Old Men (another film based on a McCarthy novel) except nothing really happens and every now and then someone turns to the screen and tells you that there is no point in being alive because eventually you’re gonna die.


  1. […] Review: The Counsellor – 2/5 ( […]

  2. I would warn anyone about a particular scene in this movie … that might stick with you a lot longer that you might want. One of the most macabre and truly horrific scenes I have ever witnessed on film.

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