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162 of 204 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An extremely divisive piece of sheer poetry.
Cormac McCarthy is not for everyone.

His books hit like a brick to the stomach, and are just about as dense. He says *to hell* to grammar and punctuation. Because who needs commas when 17 uses of "and" will do? Why make 12 little sentences when one large one will do? Why make your characters speak normally when they can converse in existential soliloquies...
Published 8 months ago by Anthony L.

versus
41 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Differences between the Extended Cut and the Theatrical Cut
I'm primarily interested in the storyline differences between the theatrical and extended cuts.

The Extended Cut runs roughly 21 minutes longer than the Theatrical Cut. Most of the extra time comes from extended dialogue, although there are one or two new minor scenes.

SPOILERS follow so read at your own risk.

1) The opening scene...
Published 7 months ago by Senor Zoidbergo


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162 of 204 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An extremely divisive piece of sheer poetry., January 27, 2014
By 
This review is from: The Counselor (DVD)
Cormac McCarthy is not for everyone.

His books hit like a brick to the stomach, and are just about as dense. He says *to hell* to grammar and punctuation. Because who needs commas when 17 uses of "and" will do? Why make 12 little sentences when one large one will do? Why make your characters speak normally when they can converse in existential soliloquies? Heck, why name your characters at all?

In spite of this, he is probably the most influential author alive, and one of the most divisive. His sentences can make a grown man weep, laugh, and disturbed...frequently all at once. His characters are broadly drawn, vividly realized, and unforgettable. They inhabit a dark, morally ambiguous world where Argentine vixen go cheetah hunting in the Mexican desert, where people are decapitated by razor wire stretched across roads. This is The Counsellor, a divisive yet stunning look at the nature of greed, evil, and desperation, brought to vivid life by Ridley Scott and his brilliant cast. Welcome to the world of Cormac McCarthy.

Whether you want to be in this world, whether you agree with his grand themes, or can even put up with McCarthy's dense little gems of sentences depends on YOU. There is an equal chance that you will find The Counsellor slow, confusing, and difficult that you will find it thought-provoking, visually stunning, and lyrical. I urge you to watch it and make up your mind. Just know what you're going in for: this is not an thrill-packed action movie. This is a slow-burning, existential psychological thriller punctuated by moments of visceral violence and constructed of gorgeously rendered soliloquies by an excellent cast.

The Counsellor is bound to force you to make an opinion. You will either love this film...or not at all. Don't sit up a fence, and pick up a copy of this future cult-classic. I give this film 4 stars, but my rating is completely subjective. If this review is helpful in your decision (or not) to purchase this film, please give it a like.

P.S. Tell me in the comments: did you like the film or not?
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41 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Differences between the Extended Cut and the Theatrical Cut, February 10, 2014
This review is from: The Counselor (Unrated Extended Cut) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I'm primarily interested in the storyline differences between the theatrical and extended cuts.

The Extended Cut runs roughly 21 minutes longer than the Theatrical Cut. Most of the extra time comes from extended dialogue, although there are one or two new minor scenes.

SPOILERS follow so read at your own risk.

1) The opening scene between the Counselor and Laura is a bit longer.

2) More dialogue between the Counselor and the diamond dealer regarding the dealer's Semitic background.

3) Longer conversation between Reiner and the Counselor regarding women and Clarissa.

4) The Green Hornet buys dog food, sarcastically telling an onlooker that he eats it. This scene seemed unnecessary, since the Green Hornet was more interesting as a mysterious character.

5) At the nightclub, Reiner relates a story about Peterson's Brazilian cousin to the Counselor.

6) The Malkina-car-scene is described in a little more detail/slightly longer.

7) New scene where Laura calls Malkina to tell her about a dream she had.

8) Wounded Cartel faux cop asks for medical help at the junkyard.

9) Malkina and Reiner's cheetahs wander over to a random family's swimming pool.

10) Longer conversation between the Counselor and Jefe.

11) New scene where paramedics pickup Westray's body post-bolito, and his head falls off. Completely gratuitous and unnecessary scene, I think.

12) Longer closing conversation between Malkina and her banker, and her stating an intention to flee to China.

The significantly longer Extended Cut primarily comprises extended conversations and a few unnecessary new scenes. Beautifully shot movie, but I think that most of its symbolism was lost on me unfortunately.
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101 of 131 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore the "1-star"s, February 25, 2014
20 minutes.

Watch twenty minutes of this film and then try to remember if you have ever seen a film with better dialogue. Then keep watching because it gets better. From the Jewish diamond dealer that randomly lays down a perspective on culture that is interesting at worst and revolutionary at best to the Mexican kingpin that oozes more wisdom than you can shake a stick at just before he takes a nap [if he has time]. Shoot, even the salutations between a bartender and a drunk on his way out the door having missed last call can be seen as profound. Classic Cormac, adjusted for the big screen.

Most importantly - and I urge you - do not heed the many, many 1-star ratings I have seen on this site. Or do as I did and read them as precisely the reason to watch this film... Seriously? Cormac's first attempt at a screenplay and it's "boring" or "pointless" What do you think? If you are one of the good ones, you will think that a 1-star rating for this film is less of an indictment for The Counselor and more of a vote from the author to hang an "idiot" sign around their own neck.

Watch 20 minutes. Watch the whole thing, then watch it again. There is no way that you got it all the first time.

Follow-up translations from 1-star reviews:

The plot never developed/"no" plot = I couldn't follow the plot because I am incapable, for any number of reasons that do not reflect well upon me as a person or a connoisseur of movies.

I found myself asking What was going on/ It was confusing = They found themselves asking What was going on/ They were confused [no translation needed].

I can't believe all these actors and a great director would make something like this/ I expected more from Ridley Scott and Javier Bardum = I had an expectation that this cast and other well-regarded keystones would make this movie a little better than Dare Devil starring Ben Afflek, but it became offensive to me that so many great minds working on a project would make a movie that was sooooo good that it would push the boundaries of Hollywood and be slightly [or far] over my head.

There was too much waxing on about philosophy/ Dialogue was out-of-place and contrived = I can't wait for Fast and Furious 7; I hear Rhonda Rousey is going to be in that one.

I had to turn it off/ I couldn't get through the whole movie = I don't want to be forced to listen hard or think beyond myself for the promise of a big pay-off. A pay-off that would make it more likely that I would listen and think in the future.

I want my $ back = I need my money back to do a little fine dining at McDonald's
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42 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for Children--Big or Small., February 12, 2014
Reading through many of these reviews reminds me why I take to writers like McCarthy in the first place. Reminds me why I don't eat at fast food restaurants. Reminds me why I don't listen to pop radio. Reminds me why great movies like TWBB, Jesse James, or this one, all fly under the radar while Transformers makes a billion dollars.

Some of us don't need our hand held to know what's going on. If you can't appreciate subtle plot devices, or if you need someone to introduce his or herself as the bad guy or the good guy, then Saturday morning cartoons or professional wrestling is probably better suited to your attention span as well as your unrealistic, knight in shining armor, view on reality.

It's a movie about American greed, arrogance of the rich, gambling with one's life and the lives of those he loves, and the horrors of the Mexican Narco Wars. It's not supposed to be a feel-good movie, geniuses.

Five gold and gleaming stars for the Counselor--and the phone call about grief and acceptance is some of the best moviemaking I've seen since Daniel Plainview or Michael Clayton. Bravo.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars `I'm pretty skeptical about the goodness of the good.', February 12, 2014
By 
This review is from: The Counselor (DVD)
For those Cormac McCarthy fans this film will probably be disappointing. Cormac's novels bask in run-on sentences, philosophical tangents and just smart ideas while they accompany the well-paced story. This, however, is a straight screenplay, not an adaptation of one of his books, and therein lies the problem. If sitting still through endless conversations about grief, the meaning of life, the impact of loss on the human soul etc entertain you, then you'll love this very slow film. If that kind of thematic dialogue calls attention to itself purely for the sake of `profound thinking', then perhaps you will be disappointed with a film packed with excellent actors but lacking a credible story. Examples of seated dialogue: 'I suspect that we are ill-formed for the path we have chosen. Ill-formed and ill-prepared. We would like to draw a veil over all the blood and terror that have brought us to this place. It is our faintness of heart that would close our eyes to all of that, but in so doing it makes of it our destiny... But nothing is crueler than a coward, and the slaughter to come is probably beyond our imagining.' And more: `When it comes to grief, the normal rules of wealth do not apply. Because grief transcends value. A man would give entire nations to lift grief off his heart and yet, you cannot buy anything with grief, because grief is worthless.' When isolated and read (as in McCarthy's fine books) it works well, but place these words as a substitute for dialogue and it pretty much crashes and burns.

The region is the El Paso/Suarez border. A rich and successful lawyer, the Counselor (Michael Fassbender), is about to get married to his fiancée Laura (Penélope Cruz) but soon becomes entangled in a complex drug plot with a middle-man known as Westray (Brad Pitt). The plan ends up taking a horrible twist and he must protect himself and his soon to be bride as the truth of the drug business is uncovered and targets are eliminated. The other characters who walk on and off the set include a diamond dealer (Bruno Ganz), a wealthy questionably legal dealer Reiner (Javier Bardem) and his all important mistress Malkina (Cameron Diaz), the jailed mother (Rosie Perez) of a druggie biker (Richard Cabral) - but they all have so little to do with what's going on (whatever that is) that they remain interesting cameos. Ridley Scott knows better. So does Cormac McCarthy. Next time, plan ahead. Grady Harp, February 14
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most underappreciated films of 2013, February 27, 2014
By 
Jack Monahan (Champaign, IL USA) - See all my reviews
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Does nobody remember how Blade Runner went down? Critically panned, only garnered it's lavish reputation afterward?

This film isn't Blade Runner, but it is directed by Ridley Scott, and capably. The source of the confusion (and low appreciation for this film) I think is the script by Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy came on many filmgoers radars for writing the books behind No Country For Old Men and The Road, both immensely enjoyable films and faithful adaptations.

But McCarthy has been writing for a very long time, and in very different moods. You can't help but notice (no doubt egged on I'm sure by misleading trailers) that The Counselor has a similar setting and premise to No Country, and if you set yourself expecting another white knuckle thriller like that movie, you'd be wrong. It's got some now trademark McCarthy inventive cruelty with regards to execution techniques, but there the similarity ends. Just as The Road was McCarthy's ruminations over life as a father, I feel as though The Counselor puzzles overs mens' relationships and fears about women, and doubt, especially surrounding the big decisions in our lives that we play "what if" games with later.

A few quibbles--the music is obnoxiously on the nose (castanets heard in an aerial shot of Mexico. Really? Just pick the most immediate association and go with it, I guess.) And Cameron Diaz mostly pulls off her character, certainly the look, but the final speech of the film gets lost tumbling out of her mouth. She is not one for delivering the sometimes arch McCarthy dialogue.

It's moody, it's surprisingly funny (Javier Bardem is a joy here) and it's vintage McCarthy. Do yourself a favor and approach the film with an open mind, and I think you'll enjoy it. Just don't expect No Country For Old Men 2--McCarthy doesn't repeat himself.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than the reviews would lead you to believe..., March 6, 2014
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THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. You have been warned. This movie has a lot of negative reviews and I have to admit, I was somewhat disappointed with the movie myself. I had very high expectations going in, as I think a lot of people did. Cormac McCarthy's first original screenplay certainly generated a lot of interest. I will be the first to admit: this movie failed to live up to the hype, fell far short of Cormac McCarthy's best novels, and it is simply impossible in this case to lay the blame on Hollywood or bad acting. Hollywood is notorious for diluting and ruining genuinely original writing but that is not what happened here. Nearly all of the problems with this movie are problems that can be traced to the script.

All that having been said, I think this movie is a lot better than many critics are making it out to be. I think a lot of the complaints that people had with the movie arose from a confusion of genres. People are treating this movie as if it was meant to be a thriller. I saw it described in one review as a "drug-war" thriller and in another as "a meditation on capitalism in the form of a thriller about cocaine trading." Obviously, the plot of this movie revolves around a lawyer who gets caught up in the drug trafficking trade with disastrous results. But, is that what this movie is about?

We learn very little about the specifics of the deal that the counselor (played by Michael Fassbender) has made. We know that he is involved with moving cocaine from Mexico to Chicago and that is about it. We also learn very little about the cartels themselves. We see some low level cartel members involved in the operation of transporting the cocaine in a sewage truck but there is only one scene where we get to see a high-ranking cartel member and he spends his time quoting the Spanish poet Antonio Machado, as opposed to talking about the drug-trade or money (he is most certainly NOT an image of unbridled capitalism; if anything he is an image of death and mortality).

What the movie focuses on, and it seems to me nearly all the critics neglect this fact, are the relationships between the counselor and Laura (played by Penelope Cruz) and Reiner (played by Javier Bardem) and Malkina (played by Cameron Diaz). They are the central characters in the film. The plot involving the drug deal is ancillary in this sense: it is an external force that disrupts the relationships in the film. I also do not think the movie is about greed. Reiner makes it very clear that the counselor is not motivated by greed. He tried to appeal to his greed in the past and it did not work. There is only one character who I think is motivated purely by greed and that is Malkina.

Ultimately, I think this movie is a movie about grief and the suddenness and inevitability of death. The most powerful scenes in the movie are: the scene where the counselor is talking to the high ranking drug cartel member and trying to make a deal to trade his life for Laura's, and the scene where the counselor receives a dvd from the cartel which, because of the set up by Westray (played by Brad Pitt) earlier in the film, we assume is a video of Laura's murder. The counselor's breakdown when he sees the dvd is extremely powerful and, in it, we are confronted by our own helplessness in the face of death.

The theme of our helplessness is precisely why (I think) so many people are disappointed in this movie. They were expecting a "drug-war" thriller, a battle between good and evil, but, as Mr. Compson says in The Sound and the Fury (I am paraphrasing): when we wage war against the world and fate, we are not only destined to lose, there is never really even any fight, because there is no one to fight. We have all seen "drug-war" thrillers and we have certain expectations. This movie disappoints those expectations which, I think, is a good thing.

For example, when Laura is kidnapped by the cartel. Here is the standard story that we have all seen a million times (that might be hyperbole): the cartel calls up the counselor and demands that he make reparations for the money he "stole" or his wife will die, they let him talk to his wife on the phone, the counselor vows to rescue her, puts together a scheme, meets some challenges on the way, but ultimately prevails (with lots of explosions, car chases and gun battles in between).

Here is what we actually get: the counselor figures out that Laura has been kidnapped because she never shows up at their arranged meeting. No one from the cartel tries to contact him about it. No one from the cartel tries to make any kind of deal with him (the cartel is, in that sense, as inexorable as fate; you cannot negotiate or make bargains with death or god). The counselor reaches out to some friend of his, who puts him in touch with a high-ranking cartel member, they have one fairly short conversation on the phone, the counselor receives a dvd of his wife's murder, and he goes home. There is never even a shred of hope that the counselor might be able to get his wife back.

The plot unfolds (or unravels) mechanically from the moment the drug deal goes wrong. It just disintegrates. I can understand why viewers who are used to taut, developing, spiraling plots would be disappointed with a decaying disintegrating plot but, personally, I found it a refreshing change of pace, and, I would have been far more disappointed if Cormac McCarthy had turned in a formulaic plot (one reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes, who I generally enjoy, was disappointed that the car chase scene "lacked suspense". I have two questions: first, would you really want to watch a lengthy car chase scene written by Cormac McCarthy? Is that the best use of his talents? And second, does anyone still get excited by car chase scenes?)

There are also people who complained that the plot is "confusing". It is true, Cormac McCarthy does not waste time explaining things to his audience. He lets the audience figure things out for themselves. Personally, I think that is a good thing. I get very frustrated with "exposition dialogue" in movies and television, dialogue that states the obvious, or has no purpose other than filling the audience in. The plot of the movie is not really complicated enough to require that anyway. There are really only three moving pieces: the counselor (who is allied with Westray and Reiner), the drug cartel, and Malkina (who works for no one but herself).

I give McCarthy credit for writing what I think is a well-crafted, non-formulaic plot, that is emotionally powerful. Still, this is certainly not a perfect movie. It suffers from a number of flaws that I think reviewers have nearly universally picked up on.

The first and most obvious problem is the dialogue. The critics of this movie are describing the dialogue as "pretentious", "pompous", "pseudo-profound", and other similar descriptive terms. While I do not necessarily agree with those adjectives (the term "pretentious" is almost always misused, and terms like "pseudo-profound" are often used when people stare into a deep pool and are disappointed when all they see is their own reflection on the surface) but I agree with the general sentiment. There is some dialogue in this movie that might work in a novel (although I am not even sure about that) but seems very out of place on the screen ("the truth has no temperature"; "it is like being in love with easeful death" (a reference to Keats).

There is also a lot of dialogue that I think is just wasted. For example, Westray spends a lot of time trying to convince the counselor that the drug cartels are seriously dangerous ("You might think there are things that they are incapable of but you'd be wrong"; "They will cut out your liver and feed it to their dogs."). I don't think, in this day and age, anyone but the hopelessly naïve needs to be convinced that the drug cartels are dangerous and capable of horrific violence, and the counselor certainly seems worldly enough to grasp the risks of his venture ("Oh, you mean the drug cartel might actually kill me if things go wrong? I had never thought of that!"). It was necessary for Westray to tell the story of the snuff tape to set up the most devastating moment in the movie but all the other time he spends talking about how dangerous the cartel is seems wasted.

The second problem I think has to do with the characters. None of them are all that likable, which is actually fine with me. I don't need to like characters but I need them to be interesting. There is one extremely interesting character in the movie: Malkina. The rest are sort of boring. We learn very little about the counselor or what makes him tick (Is he a good lawyer? An idealist? A scumbag who gets criminals out on technicalities?). We learn very little about Laura (Where did she meet the counselor? What does she do for a living? How does she feel about her fiance's involvement in the drug world?). We could say the same thing about all the other characters in the movie, except for Malkina.

Malkina is quite a triumph, in my opinion. Cormac McCarthy is often criticized for the lack of female characters in his novels but, in this movie, the most interesting character is a woman. She is cruel, deceptive, cunning, and vicious. The scene where she goes to confession, just to mock the institution, along with the belief in God, is a brilliant little scene. Malkina clearly finds something disturbing about the fact that Laura is religious, it does not fit into her hedonistic, materialistic, nihilistic philosophy. She imagines that the priest must be getting off listening to the women talk about their sins (an attempt to fit religion into her own hedonistic philosophy) so she goes to test it out. Perhaps she imagines that she will be able to convert the priest to her own hedonism or perhaps she just wants her own disillusionment to be confirmed. There is, however, no doubt that without Malkina this movie would have been much less interesting.

The movie has a lot of flaws. I do not think there are any living novelists who are better writers than Cormac McCarthy. There are probably some who are just as good, but none who are better. There are certainly lots of screenwriters who are better screenwriters than Cormac McCarthy but, then again, there are even more that are worse!
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35 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A CAUTIONARY DIAMOND, November 16, 2013
This review is from: The Counselor (DVD)
Michael Fassbender stars in the title role as a lawyer, who as far as I could tell his name was Counselor. He becomes engaged to Lara (Penélope Cruz) who is as pretty as she is naive. Reiner (Javier Bardem) is a rich friend who claims "Women are an expensive hobby." His girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz) is extremely high maintenance and out of everyone's league. Counselor has a chance to make some big money when he meets a smooth talking, mutual friend, middle man Westray (Brad Pitt) who arranges for Counselor to finance a drug deal. Seems the biggest problem is going to be how to hide the money. Then in the blink of an eye, things go so wrong as now Counselor and Westray try not to star in a Latino snuff film.

The production spends most of the time building up characters with smart dialog. When the twist happens, this changes the film from a clever drama into an action crime drama that needed better action and to last longer. The film seemed to go down hill at the very moment it should have rocketed. It is a well acted film which I enjoyed mostly for the build up. It just didn't bring it home like it should, clearly a weak screen play adaptation.

Worth a view as a rental.

Parental Guide: F-bomb. Sex. No nudity (Cameron Diaz side breast)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "And the slaughter to come is probably beyond our imagining", March 12, 2014
By 
Doug Park (Lexington, KY, USA) - See all my reviews
Whew! I wasn't ready for this.

WARNING: Many people will casually pick up and watch this film, noticing the prominent cast and hoping for just another good legal thriller that more or less follows the formula. Those people are in for a big unpleasant surprise. THE COUNSELOR will NOT warm the heart when justice is served in the end. This film also requires close attention and won't make much sense to people who just want to be entertained without having to think too hard. [Please note that I'm not trying to insult said people and am often among them myself.] Though gory and violent, THE COUNSELOR goes no farther in those areas than lots of other films do: It's the story itself that is so bleak and disturbing. Another thing: Depending upon interpretation, certain aspects may seem misogynistic and prove particularly alienating to many women.

Though a true literary genius, novelist Cormac McCarthy is not known for his cheery optimism. In this venture into film writing, he reaches new depths of pessimism that sometimes border on the darkest nihilism. Nevertheless, there are obvious basic morals to be drawn from THE COUNSELOR.

McCarthy spits in the face of so many storytelling conventions here, creating a tale that's seldom told but so often true. It's all about the young and recently engaged "Counselor," played by Michael Fassbender, who finds himself succumbing to a shady deal with a worse-than-shady crowd. The plot flies in many directions, and the sheer number of characters can be a little overwhelming. It's hard to place where everyone fits in and the game each person is playing. The transitions are abrupt, which, for some reason, seems intentional even though it doesn't exactly work. In those respects, the storyline is indeed flawed, which is why I give this film four stars instead of five. It's essentially a video novel, not simply a film adaptation of a book, something that could hasten the development of a whole new subgenre of filming. Still, let's not forget that the first novels were badly plotted, the first suspense films unsuspenseful, the first poems badly rhymed, etc. This early effort in "video novelization" or whatever we choose to call it employs techniques that work all the time on paper but are harder to utilize on screen. The character development in particular just isn't quite there.

Regardless, THE COUNSELOR is expertly filmed, well-acted, and compelling. Cameron Diaz especially stands out as Malkina, a character who's hard to forget no matter how much we may want to forget her. The larger-than-life dialogue is arresting in itself. This sort of script is hard to make work. Many films have tried it, but most have failed, and very few have succeeded this brilliantly. The early exchanges of dialogue between all the major sets of characters are important in foreshadowing and allowing the audience some clue of what's going on here and what will ultimately happen. I know that I missed some things on first view but am eager to watch this again. . .and again.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Empathize and sympathize and analyze as well as watch. Intelligent dialogue, thus, not recommended for special effects addicts., July 12, 2014
This is journeyman moviemaking. Everyone, every skill, from writing, directing, editing, cinematography and acting to sets, music, costumes, does journeyman work. This is a movie you have to listen to as well as watch. You have to empathize, sympathize, analyze as well as watch. Parts of it are brilliant. Some of the acting is masterful. Some not so much. Doesn't matter. The totality is a movie lover's wet dream. 21st Century noir. Bravo to Cormac McCarthy and Ridley Scott and Pitt and Fassbinder and, of course, Javier Bardem, and Cruz and Diaz (some of the shots of Diaz's face are stunning and makeup for an adequate if uninspired delivery of dialogue.) Oh! I almost forgot the cheetahs. There really should be an academy award for animals. These cheetahs would get my vote.
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The Counselor (Unrated Extended Cut) [Blu-ray]
The Counselor (Unrated Extended Cut) [Blu-ray] by Ridley Scott (Blu-ray - 2014)
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