Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender.

The Counselor (2013) Review

[dropcap size=big]R[/dropcap]idley Scott’s latest film is a screw-tightening, thrill ride that offers plenty of glitz, glamour, and greed. Also Cameron Diaz does something with a Ferrari that even porn stars would shy away from!

Even with big budget films, it’s a rarity nowadays that a movie’s trailer can get you hooked months in advance. But back in June when The Counselor debuted its forty-three second teaser, audiences sat up and took notice. Last year Prometheus may have been fun and kept sci-fi junkies talking for months, but it left a little something to be desired. With this, Scott is back to his signature style and uses a stellar cast to convey a multi-layered Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men, The Road) script that makes the most out of every frame.

Within the first five minutes, The Counselor lets you know exactly what kind of ride you’re in for. Michael Fassbender takes on the lead role and is never referred to by name, only title. The love of his life, Laura (Penelope Cruz), is undeniably glorious to behold, but, as we later find out, may be part of his ultimate undoing. Without offering up more spoilers, the story here involves a slightly kooky, drug cartel-connected club owner (Javier Bardem), a straight shooting middleman (Brad Pitt), and a sultry, scheming, woman on top (Cameron Diaz) that most men would steer miles clear of. When the dust settles on this tale of high stakes, wrong turns, and fateful decisions, there are more than a few main characters who may not make it back to the land of the living.

Few films are perfect though, and at times the story feels a bit heavy handed. More than once, Fassender’s Counselor is warned about the potential consequences of his prior actions, and he’s repeatedly asked if he can accept the possible outcome if a deal goes south. Concurrently, the audience is given some impossible-to-miss foreshadowing, and it’s clearly not covered in sunshine and rainbows. In a less talented director’s hands, this could have easily become a cliché cautionary tale. Luckily Scott is at the top of his game and everything from the set designs, to the few but brutally intense scenes of violence are expertly choreographed. Hardcore fans of Thelma and Louise, Blackhawk Down, and American Gangster will see some recognizable shots, but they’re pulled off with such finesse that it doesn’t register until after the credits roll.

Helping to elevate the film even higher is an amazing supporting cast, including a scene-stealing prison inmate (Rosie Perez), and a humble but incredibly layered politician played by Ruben Blades. Not too many actors can hold your attention in a three minute phone conversation scene, but here we are hanging on every word. Rarely do we here at Working Author single out casting directors, but Nina Gold and Avy Kaufman definitely deserve some serious credit for helping put together this incredibly talented group that easily handles the films dark subject matter.

It’s sad to think that not long from now moviegoers will once again be bombarded with overhyped sequels, Marvel comic book characters, and aging stars teaming up with other aging stars in a buddy cop romcom. However, if a well-executed, beautifully photographed, dark and twisted tale that features some award winning talent is what you’re in the mood for, then The Counselor is not to be missed.

Did we also mention Cameron Diaz and that Ferrari?