Friday Features: 'The Counselor' review

Friday Features: 'The Counselor' review

Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

"The Counselor," starring Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, and Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, and Rosie Perez, is rated R for graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content and language. Running time is 1 hour and 57 minutes.

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by HAYDEN PITTMAN

WFAA Special Contributor

Posted on February 1, 2014 at 1:37 AM

Updated Saturday, Feb 1 at 1:37 AM

I recently got a chance to screen Ridley Scott’s newest film, "The Counselor." Coming from a director who brought us "Blade Runner," "Gladiator," and countless other classic films, I went into "The Counselor" with high hopes. With a popular cast and a decent job at marketing itself, it appeared worth seeing.

What I found was a smart, exotic, intricate - but confusing at times - dramatic thriller.

"The Counselor" begins with an erotic encounter between Michael Fassbender and Penelope Cruz, who are together throughout the film. From this moment on, and after a James Bond-style opening credits scene, it is apparent that this film is not going to mess around. It’s not until later that you get a clear picture of the larger plot, but in short, this film follows an ambitious lawyer (Fassbender, referred to as 'Counselor') who gets mixed up in drug trafficking that soon becomes too much for him to handle and slowly begins to bring down everything around him.

This film features a well-known cast in Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, and Penelope Cruz, as well as Cameron Diaz, Rosie Perez, and a cameo from Dean Norris (Hank from "Breaking Bad"). Each scene is filled with an average to exceptional performance from Bardem, Pitt, or Fassbender, or one of these actors. Worth noting: Fassbender plays an inexperienced, unique legal counselor; Bardem gives a fine performance as an eccentric crime professional; Pitt provides a handsome, smooth-talking adviser to the Counselor; and Diaz brings a mysterious, “Wicked-Witch” villain-type role. This film is also filled with an overabundance of exotic animals, clothing, locations, and general lifestyles, but in an entertaining way.

My initial thought on "The Counselor" is that this film will require a second viewing to even attempt at peeling back all the layers of this somewhat-incoherent tale. As I sat through this movie, I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on at times. I often felt like there was either a lack of information, or there was simply too much for a single story. One of the best elements of "The Counselor" is the wittiness, but it may also be its greatest weakness, as I personally spent a great deal of time trying to piece together each erratic and unexplained scene.

From shocking, to emotional, and even violent, these scenes are repeatedly hit-and-miss as the impact or level of importance seems almost non-existent. Every event is dramatic, but there are so many of these that it is hard to keep track of everything. The plot has multiple stories and events that take place separately throughout, but all are almost all connected in some way. The problem is that too many times, it’s difficult to understand the complete connection between these events. Every conversation is filled with riddles and smart ways of presenting information, but many of these feel too long, without necessary details, slightly out-of-place and all thrown together.

In the end, I left with a great deal of questions, but Ridley Scott and this group of actors present an intriguing, multi-layered crime film that is worth seeing; but beware – make sure to pay close attention, for often times it feels as if you’re thrown into a scene or presentation that’s already midway through. If you’re a fan of this director’s style of story telling, you may enjoy the oddness of "The Counselor."

Rated 3.5-out-of-5 stars.

"The Counselor" is rated R for graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content and language. Running time is 1 hour and 57 minutes.


Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance film critic and entertainment blogger out of Dallas. More of his content can be found on YouPlusDallas.com and his author archive here. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and hopes to pursue a future in filmmaking and screenwriting. As an average, passionate film lover who rarely misses a film, his reviews are straightforward and his way with words will let you know in a simple way what he thinks. Don’t like what he has to say? Let him know at haydenp@youplusmedia.com.

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