Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘The Counselor’ Review: Fassbender is Excellent, But Film Lacks Thrills

The Counselor is an interesting movie because it’s unlike anything director Ridley Scott (2012’s Prometheus) has ever done. But on the other hand, The Counselor is not an outstanding movie, because Cormac McCarthy’s (2007’s No Country for Old Men) screenplay allows for no character development and comes off as pretentious, confusing and at times boring.

A lawyer, (Michael Fassbender, who is only identified as Counselor in the film), wants to impress his beautiful girlfriend (Penelope Cruz) by getting her a 4-carat diamond engagement ring. In order to pay his debt on the ring, the Counselor agrees to one-time drug trafficking deal with his friend Reiner (Javier Bardem), that also involves sexy, but sleazy cowboy guy Westray (Brad Pitt).

It’s drug trafficking with some powerful, scary (and unseen) drug lords of Texas, so naturally Counselor finds himself in deep trouble when the deal goes sour.

Michael Fassbender continues to prove he is one of the best actors working today. Although none of the characters in The Counselor are given much development, Fassbender is able to achieve an interesting character arc where we can feel for his character even though he’s made disastrous choices. There is one particular scene where the Counselor is on the phone, listening to his friend’s advice and Fassbender’s performance is both brilliant and tragic.

michael fassbender the counselor

Cameron Diaz is amazing as Reiner’s wild and intimidating girlfriend, Malkina. The cheetah-tattooed mystery woman has a great presence throughout the film and plays a vital role in the plot. She is completely badass and I’ll always like a female character that can outsmart a man. I will say her accent is a bit strange and goes in and out, but watching her intimidate Javier Bardem is worth the price of a matinee.

The film is extremely dialogue heavy and many times it feels like the actors are reciting straight from the script that could have easily been turned into a novel. This is novelist Cormac McCarthy’s first screenplay and lines that may work on paper sometimes don’t work on camera. Motivations behind some of the characters didn’t make much sense at all and it was distracting to sit in the theatre and try to figure out what was actually happening.

Also, Brad Pitt is great in every scene he’s in. Besides the proposal scene with Fassbender and Cruz, the scene where Pitt is walking in London (you’ll know which one I’m talking about) is my favorite scene in the film.

The Counselor has a few memorable scenes, but mainly wastes an incredibly talented cast and doesn’t live up to the hype. If it weren’t for King Fassy, I probably wouldn’t have liked the film much at all.

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