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Review: The Counselor

Oct. 24, 2013by: JimmyO

PLOT: Michael Fassbender stars as THE COUNSELOR. This nameless Armani wearing attorney is looking to make a perfect life for him and his fianc. Letting greed get the best of him, he finds himself mixed up with some shady people involved in drug trafficking and murder. The Counselor soon comes to the ugly realization that he may be digging a hole he might not be able to crawl out of.

REVIEW: THE COUNSELOR seemed to be a perfect mix of edgy thriller and modern day crime fiction. Aside from one miscast villainess, the actors were inspired choices and the script by the very talented Cormac McCarthy appeared to be in good hands with director Ridley Scott. Yet the finished project is a long, tedious affair that is as cold and emotionless as Cameron Diaz Malkina appears to be. The story of bad people doing bad things to one another is a lackluster attempt at a suspenseful thriller. With long stretches of dialogue where the only thing building is the score by Daniel Pemberton, THE COUNSELOR attempts to be too many things at once.

As far as screenplays go, Ive heard a number of people say that the script itself is a maddeningly terrific work. The many characters revolving around a twisted world of drug trafficking and sex could have been an exceptional premise. Personally I havent read the screenplay, but Id like to see what if anything was lost in translation. Michael Fassbender is an exciting choice to play the nameless Counselor, a good man making bad decisions. The actor exudes vulnerability and charm yet is perfectly fine disappearing into a dark and seedy world. His almost too perfect relationship with his girlfriend Laura (the stunning Penelope Cruz) feels slightly out of place yet that could have been a clever direction. You know the romance they share is in for a few bumps and bruises to say the least.

One missed opportunity however was to place Cameron Diaz as the venomous Malkina. With her strangely unnerving dialect and delivery, she fails to inject any sort of fearsomeness into this heartless woman. As a character that is constantly famished or starving while still feeding on the weakness of others this particular metaphor is terribly obvious her performance is bland and lifeless. You never really believe that she is coming from an authentic place. Malkina is by far the most fascinating character here yet Diaz just doesnt seem the right fit. To say that her work here is uneven is an understatement, although there are elements that she handles rather well. The infamous car f*cking scene is one of the strangest things Ive witnessed this year and she has fun with the ridiculousness of it.

Ridley Scott handles the material in his usual style and at times he achieves certain beauty in this dangerous world. Along with cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, he paints a sometimes striking canvas. Strangely though, the film meanders from one scene to the next with a less than thrilling pace so its beauty wears thin along the way. Even some of the more intense sequences of which there are few feel uninspired without any real suspense. Yet every so often there is a moment that works, including one near the end of the film involving one of the films stars. This bit of creepiness is blatantly foreshadowed early on yet it still packs a wicked punch. If only THE COUNSELOR was able to build on this energy it would have been a far more thrilling ride.

The script itself contains a handful of provocative moments that sometimes work and other times do not. The previously mentioned car f*ck scene is a fascinating idea and Diaz (and body double) commit to it. Even still, this dream life fantasy exists in a strange and misplaced sort of fashion similar to an odd flashback on Family Guy. It is indeed just another randomly placed moment. The dialogue heavy screenplay is not necessarily the problem. With both THE ROAD as well as NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, there was a slow build that had real impact on the viewer. There is very little of that here. With an impressive cast including Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Rosie Perez and Bruno Ganz, this should have made for one hell of a deep and dark thriller, one which delves into the darkness and greed of man.

This is simply a slow build without real momentum or any connection to the players involved. As a fan of Mr. Scott as well as McCarthy, it is hard to see THE COUNSELOR as anything more than a collection of too many good ideas that dont quite connect. Even if the film failed to win me over, this all-star thriller is not a total misfire, if only it were firing more than just impressive looking blanks.

Source: JoBlo.com

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9:15AM on 10/25/2013
Richard Roeper gave this an A+ so I'm still intrigued to see this.
Richard Roeper gave this an A+ so I'm still intrigued to see this.
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10:35PM on 10/25/2013
Pretty much my thoughts exactly. He's a great critic i'sent he (I really feel he genuinely bases his reviews on what the movies are suppose to be).
Pretty much my thoughts exactly. He's a great critic i'sent he (I really feel he genuinely bases his reviews on what the movies are suppose to be).
7:58AM on 10/25/2013
Watch City Tv Toronto
[link]
Watch City Tv Toronto
[link]
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7:32AM on 10/25/2013

Tinker Tailor Solider Spy

I remember everyone flipping out over that film and I thought it was terrible. This review and others that bash "The Counselor" convey how I felt about that film outside of Oldman's performance: Boring, talkative, long. I have a feeling that i may love "The Counselor"
I remember everyone flipping out over that film and I thought it was terrible. This review and others that bash "The Counselor" convey how I felt about that film outside of Oldman's performance: Boring, talkative, long. I have a feeling that i may love "The Counselor"
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5:23PM on 10/28/2013
Wait, the reviews of this film remind you of a film you hated and therefore you think you'll love it?
Wait, the reviews of this film remind you of a film you hated and therefore you think you'll love it?
7:30AM on 10/25/2013
My favorite thing about Bumbray's reviews is guessing what he's gonna give them. It's easy, just go to Rotten Tomatoes, get the average, round up or down, and that's his mindless review. No joke I've got a 12/12 guessing streak.
My favorite thing about Bumbray's reviews is guessing what he's gonna give them. It's easy, just go to Rotten Tomatoes, get the average, round up or down, and that's his mindless review. No joke I've got a 12/12 guessing streak.
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9:37AM on 10/25/2013
Clearly you don't actually know what you're talking about. For one- this isn't my review. For another, if you look at my last half-dozen reviews, the only one that matches up in 12 Years a Slave. I guess that would be expecting too much.
Clearly you don't actually know what you're talking about. For one- this isn't my review. For another, if you look at my last half-dozen reviews, the only one that matches up in 12 Years a Slave. I guess that would be expecting too much.
11:53AM on 10/25/2013
BURN.
BURN.
10:36PM on 10/25/2013
Ha Ha!
Ha Ha!
4:55AM on 10/25/2013
NO SPOILERS - I just got back from the theater. For me this film is an 8/10, (probably a 10/10 years down the road), something I plan on buying and will watch frequently, (and will probably revisit the theater at least one more time.) I understand why a lot of people are not going to like it, but I am surprised you gave it a 4. "a lackluster attempt at a suspenseful thriller" - McCarthy wasn't attempting a thriller, (in my opinion), much in the same way The Road and No Country were not
NO SPOILERS - I just got back from the theater. For me this film is an 8/10, (probably a 10/10 years down the road), something I plan on buying and will watch frequently, (and will probably revisit the theater at least one more time.) I understand why a lot of people are not going to like it, but I am surprised you gave it a 4. "a lackluster attempt at a suspenseful thriller" - McCarthy wasn't attempting a thriller, (in my opinion), much in the same way The Road and No Country were not written to be suspenseful. He is blunt and dry, (or realistic and detached), in his work when it comes to sex and violence and I think Ridley captured the "essence" of his writing quite well, (Ridley seems to be at his best when he has an excellent screenplay that he has no influence on.)

I also disagree about Cameron Diaz, (even people who are giving the film positive reviews are still criticizing her performance), I honestly thought she nailed it. I didn't SEE Diaz - I saw Malkina - and, (just with the rest of the cast), that is enough to sell me on their performance. Hell - it even took me a few seconds to realize that was John Leguizamo, an easily recognizable person.

To each his own but I hope the negative reviews aren't discouraging people and/or sending them into the theater without an open mind and just looking for flaws. It's like Only God Forgives all over again.
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12:41AM on 10/25/2013
Being that its Ridley Scott now and not Ridley Scott of 10 or 20 years ago, not that surprising that it got such a low score, not doing well on RT either.
Being that its Ridley Scott now and not Ridley Scott of 10 or 20 years ago, not that surprising that it got such a low score, not doing well on RT either.
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9:06PM on 10/24/2013
I'm nervous now about seeing this. I still have hope though. Peter Travers loved it and Roeper gave it 4 stars. Hopefully
I'm nervous now about seeing this. I still have hope though. Peter Travers loved it and Roeper gave it 4 stars. Hopefully
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7:28AM on 10/25/2013
Travers gave it a 2...I wouldn't say he loved it. Roeper's review does instill confidence that it maybe a misunderstood film
Travers gave it a 2...I wouldn't say he loved it. Roeper's review does instill confidence that it maybe a misunderstood film
8:37PM on 10/24/2013
That was unexpected. This looked really unique and exciting.
That was unexpected. This looked really unique and exciting.
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8:04PM on 10/24/2013

Great review, sucks about the film

Like Kill Billionair, I was hoping this film would be good. Unfortunately, most of JimmyO's points make sense. Cameron Diaz has some great moments but she can get lost when acting alongside the big guns - GANGS OF NEW YORK being a great example.
Like Kill Billionair, I was hoping this film would be good. Unfortunately, most of JimmyO's points make sense. Cameron Diaz has some great moments but she can get lost when acting alongside the big guns - GANGS OF NEW YORK being a great example.
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7:32PM on 10/24/2013
Man oh man, I hope I won't end up agreeing with JimmyO. This film is in my top 3 most anticipated.
But it's not looking good.

Agree with americanmoviefan though, despite that the review is negative it is very balanced and well written.
Man oh man, I hope I won't end up agreeing with JimmyO. This film is in my top 3 most anticipated.
But it's not looking good.

Agree with americanmoviefan though, despite that the review is negative it is very balanced and well written.
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7:23PM on 10/24/2013
That's really too bad. I was really looking forward to this. Looking at RT, I was surprised the score was so low. But I am even more surprised by how bad the film actually is. Even if it was bad, I didn't expect it to be that bad. A damn shame. What is going on with Ridley these days? Prometheus last year, now this?
That's really too bad. I was really looking forward to this. Looking at RT, I was surprised the score was so low. But I am even more surprised by how bad the film actually is. Even if it was bad, I didn't expect it to be that bad. A damn shame. What is going on with Ridley these days? Prometheus last year, now this?
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9:09PM on 10/24/2013
Seriously!!!
Seriously!!!
7:03PM on 10/24/2013
I'm really really surprised with the low score. The film looks terrific with a great director at the helm and an all star cast. Despite the so so review, I'm still excited as hell to see it tomorrow.
I'm really really surprised with the low score. The film looks terrific with a great director at the helm and an all star cast. Despite the so so review, I'm still excited as hell to see it tomorrow.
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6:33PM on 10/24/2013

Good Review

Relative quality is important to acknowledge with a film like this, where it could be easy to heap praise blindly due to the stacked crew, but the true quality of the film is what matters most and perhaps this is under par for the people who worked on this, but I'm not clear if it's good or bad when not compared to McCarthy's previously adapted works.
Relative quality is important to acknowledge with a film like this, where it could be easy to heap praise blindly due to the stacked crew, but the true quality of the film is what matters most and perhaps this is under par for the people who worked on this, but I'm not clear if it's good or bad when not compared to McCarthy's previously adapted works.
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