The Counselor

The Counselor

2013, R, 113 min. Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Bruno Ganz, Brad Pitt, Rosie Perez, John Leguizamo.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 25, 2013

The snaky fingers of the Juarez drug cartels feature prominently in not only last month’s Fantastic Fest documentary favorite Narco Cultura but also Ridley Scott’s newest, which is as serpentine and slick as you’d expect from Scott, but also boasts the screenwriting debut of Texas’ literary dirty-deeds godhead Cormac McCarthy. The Pulitzer Prize-winning McCarthy, at 80, has penned an unsettling anti-noir with surrealist comic tinges. There’s nary a nighttime sequence in the whole film apart from one memorable moment of motorcycle carnage, but The Counselor nevertheless exudes a miasma of dirt-dry menace from its first scene, which finds Fassbender’s morally pliable El Paso attorney writhing under the sheets with his newfound inamorata (Cruz). Scott layers the pretitle sequence with a doomy eroticism that ends up saturating the entire film.

McCarthy’s storyline whipsaws back and forth between Fassbender’s counselor, who, teetering on a fiscal cliff of his own making, buys into a shady drug deal with the tragically coiffed, dangerously oblivious, Texan kingpin Reiner (Bardem); louche middleman Westray (Pitt, deftly answering the question: “Whatever happened to his breakout character J.D. in Scott’s Thelma & Louise?); and fatalist femme Malkina (Diaz). Awful acts and some seriously fine cinematography from Dariusz Wolski ensue.

Fassbender, though, gets the kudos (again) as the man who has everything but loses it all – thanks partly to a slyly cast Bruno Ganz (Wings of Desire) and, more important, to the character’s moral compass that points wherever he feels it should, until, of course, it points due south of heaven.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Ridley Scott Films
All the Money in the World
Christopher Plummer mesmerizes as the greediest man alive

Marc Savlov, Dec. 22, 2017

Alien: Covenant
More chest-bursting fun in space

Josh Kupecki, May 19, 2017

More by Marc Savlov
Glass
M. Night Shyamalan's meta-comic trilogy crashes into Earth with a dull splat

Jan. 18, 2019

Second Act
Lean In meets The Secret of My Success in workplace rom-com

Jan. 4, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

The Counselor, Ridley Scott, Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Bruno Ganz, Brad Pitt, Rosie Perez, John Leguizamo

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle