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The Counselor (2013)



Average Rating: 4.8/10
Reviews Counted: 189
Fresh: 65 | Rotten: 124

The Counselor raises expectations with its talented cast and creative crew -- then subverts them with a wordy and clumsy suspense thriller that's mercilessly short on suspense or thrills.


Average Rating: 4.8/10
Critic Reviews: 37
Fresh: 7 | Rotten: 30

The Counselor raises expectations with its talented cast and creative crew -- then subverts them with a wordy and clumsy suspense thriller that's mercilessly short on suspense or thrills.



liked it
Average Rating: 2.4/5
User Ratings: 38,510

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Movie Info

Legendary filmmaker Ridley Scott and Pulitzer Prize winning author Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men) have joined forces in the motion picture thriller THE COUNSELOR, starring Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, and Brad Pitt. McCarthy, making his screenwriting debut and Scott interweave the author's characteristic wit and dark humor with a nightmarish scenario, in which a respected lawyer's one-time dalliance with an illegal business deal spirals out of


Mystery & Suspense

Cormac McCarthy

Feb 11, 2014


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All Critics (189) | Top Critics (37) | Fresh (65) | Rotten (124)

A great writer's pompous idea of pulp fiction, treated with stultifying seriousness by everyone else involved.

November 12, 2013 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Each scene serves as little more than an index card for the mechanistic plot, which Scott films in a glossy and fluid style befitting an industrial promotion for the movie's high-tech weaponry.

November 4, 2013 Full Review Source: New Yorker
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Counselor is the cumbersome end product of a high-minded writer trying to slum and a slick director aiming for cosmic depth.

October 28, 2013 Full Review Source: Village Voice
Village Voice
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's not so much a bad film as it is a disappointing one. A very disappointing one.

October 28, 2013 Full Review Source: ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's like a mumblecore movie about a bunch of Sarah Lawrence philosophy majors, made by coked-up rich people for 100 bajillion dollars.

October 28, 2013 Full Review Source:
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Movies can be like undercover cops: They become too enamored of the worlds they explore.

October 25, 2013 Full Review Source: Denver Post
Denver Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Half navel-gazing and half despair, and both feel like McCarthy's writing hallmarks wrenched tight to the point of self-parody. Even if that's the case, it's only involving in spasms, and the good parts go nowhere he hasn't been before.

April 8, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Mezzanine
Movie Mezzanine

McCarthy and Scott capitalize their themes: this is The End. This is The End of the Road, the End of Civilization, the End of Capitalism. This isn't neo-noir, it's über-noir.

April 4, 2014 Full Review Source: Newcity

I think I liked The Counselor?

February 26, 2014 Full Review Source: CraveOnline

You get the feeling that there's an extremely interesting story unfolding, but we're constantly on the periphery and there's not nearly enough substance to sink your teeth into.

January 2, 2014 Full Review Source: Fan The Fire
Fan The Fire

The plot is boring, who-cares nonsense. I think it's just unbelievably weird, and not only because Cameron Diaz screws a car.

December 26, 2013 Full Review Source: EntertainmentTell

The script, packed with pretentious lines and silly dialogue, manages to dull even the most exciting and provocative parts of this story.

December 24, 2013 Full Review Source: Big Hollywood
Big Hollywood

Whatever else happens in this movie, the woman who fucks a car is most audacious, most incomprehensible and the most deeply banal emblem, the limit of men's imaginations.

December 17, 2013 Full Review Source: PopMatters

It's filthy, nasty, sexy, absurd, appalling, and exhilarating, and it succeeds as a musky union of novelist Cormac McCarthy's bleakness and Ridley Scott's sense of chic.

December 10, 2013 Full Review Source: Grantland

A spectacular feeding frenzy

November 18, 2013 Full Review Source: The Popcorn Junkie
The Popcorn Junkie

Looking at the pedigree of the talent involved, and the oddly subdued damp squib that they eventually turned out, it's a weirdly gratifying task figuring out exactly how it all went wrong.

November 18, 2013 Full Review Source: Electric Sheep
Electric Sheep

Blah bloody blah.

November 17, 2013 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

With Ridley Scott at the helm and the starriest of A-list casts, The Counsellor may come with lashings of Hollywood gloss, but don't bargain on any Hollywood sugar-coating of McCarthy's customary nihilism.

November 17, 2013 Full Review Source: Movie Talk
Movie Talk

It is well worth seeing. But it is the product of a clash between two very different sensibilities, those of its author, Cormac McCarthy, and its director, Ridley Scott.

November 15, 2013 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

Despite some lovely exchanges and cracking lines, The Counsellor is too complex and wordy for its own good, so it's Cormac 1, Scott 0.

November 15, 2013 Full Review Source: Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post

Frustratingly directionless and unconcerned with detail, but fans of the writer will feel right at home wallowing through fresh reams of his trademark bleak prose.

November 15, 2013 Full Review Source: Film4

It is like watching a group of decent, polite people trying to cope with the arrival of a certifiable lunatic to their hitherto civilised party.

November 15, 2013 Full Review Source: Irish Times
Irish Times

Almost, but not quite, hilariously demented - if accidentally so - drama about sex and death, and why not to get involved with drug cartels.

November 15, 2013 Full Review Source: Flick Filosopher
Flick Filosopher

The Counsellor is a cold, pessimistic film that feels especially unforgiving. McCarthy's script is far too distanced for its own good and requires more from its audience than it is prepared to give back.

November 15, 2013 Full Review Source: The List
The List

The result is so much ponderous dialogue that, peaceable chap though I am, I found myself longing for another merciless act of vengeance.

November 14, 2013 Full Review Source: Daily Mail [UK]
Daily Mail [UK]

All those wasted high-end wardrobes.

November 14, 2013 Full Review Source: Daily Express
Daily Express

Audience Reviews for The Counselor

Being a huge fan of Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Cormac McCarthy, Ridley Scott was originally planning to adapt his controversial 1985 novel "Blood Meridian" before the project eventually fell through. Scott, however, was given another chance when McCarthy wrote his first ever original screenplay in the mould of "The Counselor". Circling it for a short time, Scott eventually took the reigns and drafted in a star studded cast which led it to be one of the most anticipated movies of 2013. When it finally reached the public-eye, though, it was met with such a vehement backlash that I actually steered clear of it... until now.

Deeply in love with his fiancĂ (C)e Laura (Penelope Cruz), The Counselor (Michael Fassbender) aims to provide a high standard of living for her. To do so, he enters into a one-time deal with dangerous drug dealer Reiner (Javier Bardem), his sociopathic girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz) and middle-man Westray (Brad Pitt). Despite several warnings about the severe consequences of dealing with the Mexican cartel, The Counselor foolishly decides to go ahead anyway.

"Inert", "directionless", "disjointed", "misjudged" - these are just a few of the adjectives that I came across when "The Counselor" was released to mass disappointment. As a result, I went into it with very heavy reservations. If truth be told, I was preparing to write a scathing review where I could really pick out the flaws and expose them for all their ludicrousness. Much to my surprise then, that after 20 mins I found myself with nothing to criticise and if anything, I started to find my feet in this elaborate thriller and found myself enjoying it more and more with every passing minute. It became apparent that this isn't a film that's "misjudged", this is a film that has received a very misjudged marketing campaign. It's not the fast paced, slick crime thriller that many were expecting but more of a deliberate and philosophical parable about the nature of greed and the rippling effect of immoral decisions.

A lot has been said about McCarthy's first ever screenplay and his unconventional method. Many have claimed it to be deliberately cryptic and indecipherable. Admittedly, at times, it can be but the real key to understanding the film is breaking through our preconceived ideas of how dialogue should be delivered. The answers are there, they just need that extra concentration and willingness to find them. Some lengthy monologues do keep the audience at a particular arms length and it can be difficult to break through their very dense and metaphoric meanings but I managed to play along and actually found the film to be richly rewarding.

It looks fantastic, with wonderful picturesque locations and even though the characters are lavish and colourful, this is still a very believable and foreboding criminal underworld. Scott shows a confident handling of the material and the acting ensemble all seem fully committed to McCarthy's abstract and idiosyncratic prose. I didn't get the impression that they felt strained or unsure of what they were involved in here and that's primarily what makes the film work. Each of their characters are convincing and they all deliver solid performances.

That being said, this is not a film that will appeal to everyone and it's entirely understandable why it hasn't been kindly received. Very little is explained; there's no backstory or linear conclusion and even Fassbender's Counselor is never revealed by name. In fact, those that were critical of the underwhelming epilogue of the Coen brothers' adaptation of McCarthy's "No Country For Old Men" in 2007 will likely be frustrated with "The Counselor" in it's entirety. The whole film operates on that suggestive level. It's a bold and daring move but one that I find respects the audiences ability to read into events and possibilities.

Having been disappointed in a lot of Ridley's Scott's recent films, I was expecting more of the same here. Far from it, though. This is a highly underrated neo-noir that's one of Scott's best efforts for some time and McCarthy constructs a transcendent, almost Shakespearean, tragedy. It only leaves me with hope that this won't be the last time he writes a screenplay - despite it's much maligned reception.

Mark Walker
March 9, 2014

Super Reviewer

It's a shocking, stylish, powerful and exhilarating crime-thriller. A first-rate knockout that glistens with talent, shinning the works of its writer, director and gorgeous cast. A fearlessly twisted, utterly sexy, darkly funny and totally dangerous movie that you have to see to believe. You wont believe what hit you, you definitely with this film, you have to expect the unexpected. The film-making is razor-sharp and the writing is masterful. Director, Ridley Scott crafts his most wicked and twisted film yet. Writer, Cormac McCarthy writes his first original screenplay and it shines with clever dialogue, intense characters and even more intense consequences. McCarthy's script delivers some unique characters, where the actions have consequences and the characters are not to be routed for. The all-star cast is brilliant. Michael Fassbender is sensational. Javier Bardem is excellent. Brad Pitt is excellent. Cameron Diaz is sexy and dangerous. It's bold, red-hot and wickedly cool. This movie shakes and shocks you to the core. A guilty pleasure type of entertainment.
February 28, 2014

Super Reviewer

So, I really wanted to like this movie because of the cast, but it's really a 3 scene movie. It's a story about a drug deal gone bad with a fantastic cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, and Penelope Cruz. It's directed by Ridley Scott and written by Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy is a great writer who wrote one of maybe 10 books I've read in the last 10 years, The Road(the movie for that wasn't very good by the way). So naturally I thought this is gonna be good. Well, it's not really. It's a lot of monologue type talking with not much going on. Then BAM there are three scenes that really stand out. One is the hottest, and weirdest Cameron Diaz scene ever, and the other two are death scenes. One of which will literally make you said "Holy S***!! that's awesome!" Is it worth watching? Yeah for those three scenes, but other than that, not really. Took me 3 nights to get through because I kept falling asleep. Maybe under different circumstances I would have liked it more, but I dunno if I'll ever go back and rewatch the entire thing or not. Check it out for yourself and let me know what you thought!
February 17, 2014
Everett Johnson

Super Reviewer

It is shocking that so much talent could lead to this terrible mess, a clumsy and bloated movie with no structure and full of dreadful dialogue and pointless scenes, even though after eighty minutes of tedium it finally shows that it has something to say after all.
February 4, 2014

Super Reviewer

    1. Diamond Dealer: To partake of the stone's endless destiny, is that not the meaning of adornment? 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.
    – Submitted by Lorenzo V (2 months ago)
    1. Counselor: Catfish?
    – Submitted by Aaron H (5 months ago)
    1. Laura: The truth has no temperature.
    – Submitted by Tyrone L J (5 months ago)
View all quotes (3)

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October 24, 2013:
Critics Consensus: The Counselor is Eccentric but Uneven
This week at the movies, we've got an amoral attorney (The Counselor, starring Michael Fassbender...

Foreign Titles

  • The Counsellor (UK)
  • Cartel (FR)
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