on January 26, 2015
I was appalled by the evil being presented to me in this film. It was as if the hideous Bardem villain in "No Country for Old Men" (also from Cormack McCarthy's writings) had become legion. Here is a whole population of frightening psychopaths with no compunction about subjecting others to violence and cruelty. Despite all of this, I was riveted to the screen throughout. I felt that McCarthy had somehow delved into the evil world of the drug cartels to an extent where he could make you experience, unusually deeply, how terrifying their evil really is. Now I am one who is always fonder of character-driven movies, with brilliant dialogue, leaving one with much to think about when the lights come up at the finish. I wasn't especially keen to experience action, thrills, or suspense. The lengthy verbal scenes toward the close of the film might well strike many a modern young viewer as somewhat static and, perhaps, difficult to comprehend, but I was with them all the way. I have seldom heard such articulate expressions of profound psychological and disturbing philosophical issues in a movie, and it worked for me. I have seen many reviews by others who, clearly did not feel this way about the film. Seeing the kinds of movies that are most successful these days, I can hardly be surprised; however, for anyone who wants to experience a deeply thoughtful, unflinching exploration of some of the very darkest aspects of today's world, I heartily recommend this movie. Everyone should be strongly warned that many of the sexual matters, as well as some of the violence are very shocking indeed; at least they were to me.
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?
on February 18, 2014
OK, I know that puts me in the minority, but the story, directing and acting are all great imo.
So what's wrong with it?
Reading other reviews I think the hardest thing is to follow the plot. I pre-purchased the screenplay (because I'll read a birthday card if McCarthy wrote it). It's much easier to follow the story when you read it at your own pace, so when it came to the movie, there was almost no issue, though even then it's not clear to me why Malkina engineered a hijack that she didn't mind losing. I have to assume she was getting paid by the hijackers, and then she took the main swag from Westray, so she got paid twice (even though she didn't deliver on the hijack?). But it's hardly explained. I understand the extended cut is a bit easier to follow so I recommend watching that -- which I haven't, but I might yet.
The philosophy I thought was great. This is a morality tale -- don't get caught up in big drug deals to fund a fancy lifestyle, because you have no idea what you are going to be dealing with. To come out on top you'd better be amoral (immoral doesn't cut it) and very smart. All others perish. The counselor was warned multiple times, and he didn't listen. I thought the part about how we create our own worlds, and sometimes you make choices that preclude you ever returning to prior ones was phenomenal. Most pointed moral guideline -- "Think of that next time you do a line." Sure, they speak a bit more cleverly more of the time than most people do in real life. That's often the case in a story -- makes it more interesting than real life. I usually assume that they discuss who's doing the grocery shopping off camera.
As for the brutality, that's an essential part of the story too, and McCarthy didn't make it up. (OK, he made up the bolito -- but that's a good enough idea I can forgive him. Worth it to see Brad Pitt perish in agony -- which he did very well). But the snuff videos and the beheadings are everyday fare in the Mexican drug business. It's meant to be a window on a world most of us can barely comprehend and would do well to stay away from.
Finally, it's funny -- often. Like when Reiner describes Malkina making out with his Ferrari, or the welders return the traveler in the truck, or Westray flirts with the honey trap at the check-in.
It's not for the squeamish. But McCarthy never is.
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.
on March 12, 2014
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.
on July 17, 2014
It's official. I have nothing in common with 95% of this planet.
This movie was castigated and shunned upon release, and that assessment, sadly, continues still. I guess Ben Affleck and Ben Stiller don't make enough appearances in the film.
This movie is superb. As a British critic put it, the movie is a Cormac McCarthy audiobook with visuals by Ridley Scott. The dialogue is pure poetry. I could have watched the characters speak those lines for hours and hours and hours, and that was even before getting to Ruben Blades'.
I suggest someone build a wall between us and them. No hard feelings, but you live over there, and I'll live over here.
on February 25, 2014
You would love it too if you appreciate good dialogue. Cameron Diaz was the perfect B****. the type one would love, love, love and fear, fear, fear at the same time.The Counselor was not a perfect film but what is perfect? The brief philosophical snippets through out the movie paired with moral innuendoes were priceless. I especially enjoyed the scene between the counselor and the jeweler in New Zealand when making the perfect diamond selection for his beloved (Penelope Cruz); these moments are rarely seen in film that I adore so much. I gave The Counselor five stars because I love superb story telling that's uniquely different, a little mystery that's intriguing enough not to insult my intelligence with cameos by great performers like Brad Pitt. You'll miss out if you pass this one up for sure. My opinion. SKC. 2/25/14.
on February 25, 2014
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
on October 19, 2014
The Counselor, the film, is a fascinating, hard-hitting account of the juxtaposition of the world a man chooses to believe he lives in colliding with the one he actually lives in. Each time you watch its effect goes deeper because you never expect such an intrusive level of reality to reach such an untouchable character (untouchable by his standards and most of current modern human society's). Chilling.
on January 30, 2015
Wow! This movie really divides an audience.
Last month, I happened upon the jeweler scene on pay cable. Talking about an expensive diamond the Counselor is considering as an engagement ring, the jeweler says, "To enhance the beauty of the beloved is to acknowledge both her frailty and the nobility of that frailty. At our noblest we announce to the darkness that we will not be diminished by the brevity of our lives. That we will not thereby be made less." This deft kaleidoscope of a metaphor riveted me. Did he really say that? I played it back and even read the subtitles. A film that dares to have a character speak such a rarefied line of poetry like that is one I definitely had to see in its full expanded and unrated mode. I immediately turned off the TV and ordered both the screenplay and the extended-cut Blu Ray.
I only wish more films had such scenes of existentially aware and wise dialogue. Yes, it is heightened, stylized, and assuredly not "every day speaking", but it's the simpering drudge of "every day" speaking (even in our own fidgeting minds) that clouds the skies of all our days. Many Amazon reviewers are angry and damning of this film's dialogue, but what is so aesthetically wrong with having provocative and profound speeches in a thriller? (The public sure loved it from Dr. Lechter in the Hannibal series.) Perhaps it is the genre expectations of a typical thriller -- terse and to-the-point dialogue -- that disappoints so many viewers when "The Counselor" winds up being Eugene O'Neill with beheadings.
While full of metaphor and poetry from many characters, the dialogue has purpose. It provides philosophical and psychological perspectives for such cruelties as the Bolito beheading or the revelation of Diaz character's psychopathology. The main characters, with the exception of Laura, are people who have willed themselves off the grid of middle-class morality into greed, murder, and mayhem; yet they are intelligent and self-aware. Let's see how they think through their worlds.
The plot is as elegantly constructed and understated as the dialogue is rich and poetic. This is a movie to experience, not merely watch. (The fact that it is probably one of the most damning anti-drug films I've ever seen is just a footnote to all of the other treasures of theme, character, and dialogue "The Counselor" provides.)
Here's hoping that time provides the measure through which the unrated version of this film will grow in stature to a future audience unafraid of an artistic search for truth. Whether that audience materializes or not, the extended version of "The Counselor" is a robust achievement of cinema.