The Counselor Review

The Counselor
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Cormac McCarthy
Starrring: Penélope Cruz, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt


The Counselor held a great deal of promise. An all-star cast (Penélope Cruz, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt) and legendary director Ridley Scott all but assured that the film would be a success. But one mess of a screenplay manages to derail the entire endeavor.  Famed author Cormac McCarthy (The Road) fails miserably in his screenwriting debut. It seems that being a Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction writer doesn’t necessarily equate with quality filmmaking.

The problem is that there isn’t really any story to be told. The Counselor (Fassbender plays the title character) is somehow involved in a drug trafficking deal gone wrong. It’s never revealed as to what his involvement is, or why he chose to participate. Ditto for Pitt’s character. I have no idea what his role was in the deal. Diaz’s character lounges around with her pet cheetahs and appears to be orchestrating everything while her eccentric club owner boyfriend (played by Bardem) dutifully follows her around.

This is one of those films that tries to be preachy but will never admit to being so. Similar to Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000), The Counselor tries to shed light the far-reaching consequences of the drug trade. In case that isn’t readily apparent, Pitt’s character tells a helpful story about snuff films and how anyone who watches one is responsible for the film’s existence. Okay, we get it. You do drugs; you’ve got blood on your hands.


I’ll admit to liking several things about The Counselor. The performances were good, and the ensemble cast worked well together. Stylistically, it looks good. I actually enjoyed watching the movie for the most part, but when nothing came together by the end, I became a bit disenchanted.

It’s as if McCarthy forgot to finish the screenplay. No loose ends are tied up, and I still had no idea how The Counselor was involved. When you can’t ascertain your lead character’s actual role, that’s sloppy cinema. The Counselor is unsettling and unsatisfying. That’s too bad, because I had high hopes for it being a standout fall film. – Shannon

SCORE: 2 stars

  • Bas

    Dammit! I really hope you’re wrong on this Shannon, because this was my most anticipated movie… :(

  • Shannon Adams Hood

    It was one of mine as well. I’ll tell you I liked it more than 90% of the critics in my screening. Most of them gave it zero stars. Harsh. But one of my colleagues who writes for the newspaper gave it 3/4, one of the better reviews in the country.

    It’s worth a watch, I enjoyed my time in the theater. Just was mad that there were no answers ever provided.

  • ProjectGenesis

    I am looking forward to this being discussed on the podcast. As with Prometheus, the big themes/ideas of this movie reveal themselves through, what could be called ” wordy philosophical dialogue.”

    And say what you will about Ridley Scott, dude has some consistent themes. Just compare the Counsellor/Jefe conversation at the end to the Weyland/Engineer encounter in Prometheus or even Roy/Tyrell at the end of Blade Runner.

  • rvancetal

    I don’t see why it is required to know what his exact role in the events are because it is clear from the interactions and the retribution taken he is dealing with some shady people.

  • Shannon Adams Hood

    Well, of course that is obvious, but it doesn’t give a screenwriter a pass to not flesh out ANY of the characters. If that is the case, I’ll bang out a screenplay this weekend, assuming that the audience doesn’t care to actually know any background on any characters. It should be a cinch. *I’m making this comment with tongue planted firmly in cheek, but there’s validity to it.

  • Matt the Kiwi

    Finally saw this movie last night and have to agree 100% with Shannons sentiments. Listening to the lads talk about it on the podcast review gave me some hope but I think they were reading more into it than the movie deserved. So wanted to like this film but found watching it equivalent to eating really colourful cardboard.