“The Counselor” Movie Review

‘The Counselor’ Review
It is not often that one sees a legendary director, and a Pulitzer Prize winning author team up for a motion picture project.  Such is the case for the thriller “The Counselor.”  Ridley Scott, director of the successful 2007 thriller “American Gangster,” brings forth his unique style of film making and teams it with the majestic words and talents of Cormac McCarthy, author of “The Road” and “No Country For Old Men.”  Together these two men, along with a star-studded cast, tell a story of deception, evil and unforgiving grief.

The movie’s storyline focuses on a man who goes simply by the name, Counselor, played by Michael Fassbender.  This respected lawyer seems to have his life in order, and that’s what he tells his fiancé Laura, who is played by the sensual Penelope Cruz.  However, Counselor finds himself in unexpected trouble when an untimely alliance with a troubled drug dealer goes sideways.  The Counselor tries to find any way out of his sticky situation, but all attempts to remedy his situation and save those close to him falter at every turn.

The drug dealer Counselor tangles himself up in goes by the name of Reiner, and while Javier Bardem holds his own as this character in his own unique way, it’s his characters partner that steals the show.  Cameron Diaz deserves the most praise for playing Malkina, a sassy, sexy and seductively intelligent minx.  The vivaciousness of Diaz brings life to even the dullest of scenes.

“The Counselor” glistens with star talent, highlighted by Fassbender, Bardem, Diaz and even Brad Pitt.  McCarthy uses each of the stars charisma to perfection in his script, but while the characters thrive, the storyline falters.  “The Counselor” relies far too much on each actor’s talents instead of focusing on a logical narrative.  With that being said, the end of McCarthy’s uneven screenplay does tie its loose ends in an extremely entertaining and violent way; the finale of “The Counselor” will force the audience to think, and not all may enjoy that.

The most memorable scene from “The Counselor” comes near the film’s conclusion, when Counselor is consulting with a drug kingpin.  The conversation between the two characters illustrates the skills of both McCarthy and Scott.  From the directing point of view, the shots used to capture the distressed state of the once reputable lawyer are simple yet profound.  Scott doesn’t try to push the limits, instead he lets Fassbender act. Sometimes it is best to do simple things, it can lead to the grandest effect.  Then comes McCarthy’s writing; it’s deep, profound and depressingly philosophical.  Never has a kingpin explaining the depths and worthlessness of grief been so insightful.

“The Counselor” is a film that has enormous potential, but due to many accumulative small road bumps, it becomes an uneven and frequently confusing mess.  There are times when the action and dialogue are irresistibly appetizing, but boring and unnecessary points often mirror and sometimes outweigh the positive moments.  “The Counselor” will entertain those who are willing to pay attention to details and appreciate the depths of effective acting, but anyone looking for an easy to understand and shallow thriller will find themselves looking for an exit.

Stanko Rating: B-

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