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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » The Counselor
The Counselor
20th Century Fox // R // October 25, 2013
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted October 24, 2013 | E-mail the Author
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This hasn't always been the case, but Hollywood boasts about the cast and crew involved in the picture. Film marketing generally seems to focus more on big names than on the story of the picture itself. Before seeing The Counselor, I didn't know very much about it aside from the names of those involved. This might create curiosity in some moviegoers, but perhaps it will draw in the incorrect target audience. Last year's Killing Them Softly has some similarities when it comes to the marketing techniques. However, I'm positive that it will also receive similar reactions. While I absolutely loved that film, the majority of people hated it. Ridley Scott's The Counselor isn't a complete disaster, but it fails to impress.

The Counselor (Michael Fassbender) is a lawyer who is told by a client that her son is in jail. He bails him out of jail, but this is only the beginning. The Counselor finds himself in over his head when he gets himself involved in drug trafficking. He's forced to coordinate with Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Westray (Brad Pitt) in order to remain safe. However, there's a lot more at stake than the Counselor could imagine, now that his love for Laura (Penelope Cruz) continues to grow. Greed just might be the thing that takes this already-rich trio to the ground.

The first act of the film develops the relationship between the Counselor and Laura. Cormac McCarthy develops a rather genuine relationship between the two characters in a relatively short period of time. The dialogue shared between these characters is fairly decent. As the motion picture begins to introduce more roles, it quickly starts to lose the small amount of steam that it has built thus far. Reiner and his girlfriend, Malkina (Cameron Diaz), are supposed to help build the tension. Unfortunately, they're incredibly uninspired and lazy. They're generic and predictable characters. Malkina had some potential, but she doesn't get very much disposition. Regardless of Reiner's numerous conversations with the Counselor, he simply isn't an engaging character. While the story may continue to progress, this is clearly a character-driven film. It's a shame that only a couple of them will keep you engaged.

There are portions of dialogue that will seem very familiar to Killing Them Softly. By this, I am referring to the monologues. The majority of them come from Westray, who is a mysterious and intriguing character. He constantly attempts to warn the Counselor about the trouble that he's getting himself involved in. Westray isn't prepared to give his life for the Counselor, so there's only so much advice that can be given. The audience doesn't learn very much about him, but his dialogue is the most captivating out of the bunch. From there, the thriller aspect of the feature comes into play. The Counselor keeps our protagonist at the center of the plot, but we continue to jump from one perspective to the next. The story begins to get pulled in several directions, making for some confusion. While the ultimate outcome is as predictable as ever, there are some progressions that will surely leave some viewers confused.

The Counselor plants several seeds through the beginning of the screenplay with obvious pay-offs, which aren't that great. The picture attempts to have us question who will be the last person left alive, but it's pretty easy to guess from pretty early on. This tears all of the tension that could have made us sit at the edge of our seats. Unfortunately, a lot of the picture decides to focus on the rich lifestyle of our characters, rather than delivering a captivating plot. The Counselor is dark and gritty, but this isn't enough to keep our eyes glued to the screen. After the movie ended, I realized that the screenplay failed to connect and convey suspense. The antagonist is disappointing, as it tries far too hard to be clever.

There's an outstanding amount of talent in front of the camera, but there isn't very much for them to do. Michael Fassbender is a tremendous actor who has proven his dynamic skill set numerous times, but the Counselor doesn't give him very much to work with. Penelope Cruz is barely utilized in the role of Laura. The scenes that she shares with Fassbender are actually pretty strong, but that isn't carried over to the remainder of the running time. Cameron Diaz is delivering a much darker performance than her typical roles. She manages to be quite believable for the majority of the film, but she has difficulty carrying the longer monologues. Javier Bardem has shown that he's a great actor in the past, but this is more of the same as Reiner. Audiences have seen him in this role numerous times, and it's time for him to make the move before he becomes typecast. As expected, Brad Pitt is absolutely exceptional as Westray. He delivers each of his monologues to absolute perfection. It's a shame that he didn't get to add very much personality of his charm.

It just proves that regardless of how much talent is involved in a single project, that doesn't make a great piece of filmmaking. I'm sure that some audiences will find The Counselor to be worth checking out, but it was unable to captivate me. I had difficulty buying into the world that McCarthy and Scott were trying to convey. It's cold and calculated, but not in a good way. There are some strong moments, but they aren't enough to carry the entire picture. The cast is impressive, but they don't get very much of an opportunity to convey their skills. The Counselor didn't work for me, but perhaps you will enjoy it more than I did. Rent it.

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