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article imageReview: ‘The Counselor’ doesn’t miss a beat Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 27, 2013 in Entertainment
In ‘The Counselor’, a lawyer finds himself running for his life after he overcomes years of resistance and becomes involved in drug trafficking.
Recent adaptations of Cormac McCarthy's stories have established certain audience expectations. These movies have an A-list cast, are dialogue heavy and offer a dark perspective of whatever situation it portrays. The Counselor lives up to all of these expectations and then some by presenting a formulaic crime thriller with a few special ingredients.
The Counselor (Michael Fassbender) dabbled in diamond smuggling, keeping the more serious criminal activity of his acquaintances at arm's length. But a desperate financial situation persuades him to risk it all on a cocaine shipment. When the deal goes bad, the Counselor and his associates, Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Westray (Brad Pitt), must answer to the cartel who suspects their involvement.
The stereotype says a mostly regular guy gets mixed up with the wrong people and is forced to go to great lengths to conclude the relationship satisfactorily. This scenario accurately describes the core premise of the film. But McCarthy and director Ridley Scott take that straight line and add twists, turns and a couple of loops to both fulfill and defy expectations. These are not men who work with rainbows and unicorns; they deal in blood and violence delivered in a realistic and sometimes devastating manner. They also understand that a viewer's imagination is a valuable aid in keeping some of the more horrific brutality off the screen.
And yet even with the collaboration of these two acclaimed storytellers, it's still a bit of a mess -- an enjoyable and forgivable pileup, but one nonetheless. As the situation grows more desperate and the pace of the story progression increases, the reasoning behind some of the narrative developments becomes murky or is glossed over. For instance one character appears to be omnipotent, acting on information they couldn't possibly have known based on what is shown in the movie.
Unsurprisingly the most predictable element of the film is the superb acting from the top notch cast. Fassbender is at home in a suit and tie, and equally capable of expressing his character’s desperation and anguish. Pitt’s personality is a bold but cautious, capped under a white Stetson Bardem continues to effectively play eccentric characters, though his wild hairstyle (and Cameron Diaz’s eye makeup) is slightly distracting. Meanwhile, Diaz goes against type to play a tattooed femme fatale and she’s mostly convincing.
It's not so much a slow burn as it is a film with a detailed story development that fills every minute without ever trying your patience.
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt
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