Film Reviews
Michael Fassbender in 'The Counselor'

‘The Counselor’: It Dares You to Love It

Michael Fassbender's second collaboration with director Ridley Scott is interesting but hard to recommend

Michael Fassbender is a charismatic guy. No matter if he’s Carl Jung or Magneto, David the Android, Hicox the German speaking lieutenant, or the title character in The Counselor. Injecting roles with threat when necessary comes easy to him – that smile, shark-like from certain angles, helps. Nevertheless, he projects an affability and vulnerability to each part
at the same time. Audiences sympathize with him.

In a way, every famous face involved in the making of The Counselor shares that with Fassbender, the film’s lead. Not since Movie 43 has there been a Hollywood production filled with so much talent both in front and behind camera that dared you so hard to enjoy it. At least The Counselor displays a higher intelligence. It does not attempt to be unpleasant just for the sake of it.

The Counselor in a Nutshell

The plot centers on a criminal lawyer (Fassbender) living on the border between Mexico and the state of Texas. He mingles with various individuals involved in the local drug trade. Among them: Reiner, whose company is a front for the drug transport operation. (Javier Bardem, once again giving top-billing to his hairdo.) Malkina (Cameron Díaz), Reiner’s girlfriend, a chick from Barbados with two pet cheetahs that match her tattoos. Westray (Brad Pitt), a middleman between the cartel and the North American buyers. Ruth (Rosie Pérez), a convict and client of the counselor. A diamond reseller in Amsterdam (Bruno Ganz), who crafts the ring the lawyer uses to propose to Laura (Penélope Cruz), his Mexican fiancée.

Each one holds a place in the hierarchy of a criminal enterprise that is what it is. One where everyone – from the employee who plugs the bullet holes in the trucks to the guy who crosses the border on a motorbike with the truck’s starter in hand – have a clearly defined role or are forcefully put on it to make an example. The naïve counselor believes he can invest in this business and come out an unscathed newlywed with a profit. He never considers that any of these cogs in the machine, or all of them, or human nature itself, might wish him harm.

The Counselor
The “employees”: The counselor (Michael Fassbender), Laura (Penélope Cruz), Malkina (Cameron Díaz), Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Westray (Brad Pitt) in The Counselor. (SOURCE: 20th Century Fox.)

Heed My Counsel

Ridley Scott, that ambitious and prolific British helmer (Prometheus; Gladiator; Black Hawk Down; Blade Runner) is behind this film. In tone, it resembles a love letter to Tony Scott (Man on Fire), his deceased brother and fellow director. The presence of Ridley, as well as the aforementioned cast, guarantee the attending public will happily follow the film’s plot right until the moment it reveals its true intentions. Mentioning what those are would be to spoil the surprise.

Let me simply clarify that in my opinion the filmmakers did not cheat. The direction the movie takes was visible from the get-go. No broken promises here. Furthermore, I warn those who felt shortchanged with the climax of the Coen Brother’s No Country for Old Men that Cormac McCarthy, the author of the novel on which that production was based, wrote the screenplay for this one. Which means none of your expectations will be met, however high, low or irreverent they may be. It’s part of the film’s irony: the lawyer, for example, is always referred to as ‘counselor’ and yet he never follows any advice until it’s too late.

Closing Thoughts

Some of you might totally get the movie on the first viewing and hate it anyway. That would seem to me like the intention of Scott, McCarthy, Fassbender and their cohorts. As for me, I will dare myself to recommend The Counselor, if for no other reason than to enjoy Scott’s visuals and McCarthy’s eloquent lines, which I’m betting will be quoted in the near future by film fans, literature lovers and infinite Internet memes. Sometimes it’s necessary to endure a rough time for the sake of an original vision.

This review was first published on the Revista U website. Click here for the original article (in Spanish).


Movie title: The Counselor

Movie description: Michael Fassbender's second collaboration with director Ridley Scott is interesting but hard to recommend.

Date published: 2013-11-12

Director(s): Ridley Scott

Actor(s): Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Díaz, Brad Pitt, Bruno Ganz, Rosie Pérez

Genre: Drama


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