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The Counselor (2013)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/11/2014

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/24/2014

In my recent review for Dario Argento's Dracula, I asked the question, "Why do some directors lose it?" I was referring to the phenomena where once successful and talented directors seemingly misplace their ability to make a decent movie. Some of you may disagree with this, but I think that Ridley Scott is a prime example. Despite that I will always admire him for Alien and my wife will always admire him for Thelma & Louise, his films have always been hit or miss. Simply look at his resume and count the number of movies where you say, "I think I've heard of that, but I didn't know that Ridley Scott made it." His last two films has been simply wretched. Prometheus, with its promise and then denial that it was an Alien prequel, was a huge disappointment which displayed a truly alarming lack of logic and continuity. However, Scott has now outdone himself with The Counselor. A movie so bad that the plot was embarrassed to be seen in it.

Here is the story in The Counselor: Michael Fassbender plays a lawyer known only as The Counselor. He has recently proposed to Laura (Penelope Cruz). But, The Counselor is in financial trouble, so he decides to join Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Westray (Brad Pitt) in a drug deal which involves a Mexican cartel. Reiner lives with Malinka (Cameron Diaz), who likes to watch cheetahs hunt. When the drug deal goes sour, an odd coincidence leads the cartel to believe that The Counselor double-crossed them, and he suddenly finds himself in danger.

When I write a synopsis, I typically hold something (if not a lot) back in order to avoid spoilers. But, not in this case. What you just read is pretty much the entire story of The Counselor. Sure, I left out some details and some minor characters, but that perfectly encapsulates the plot. And yet, somehow this movie manages to go on for two hours, slowly releasing this story. Many, many scenes go by before we get an accurate view of who everyone is and what they are doing. Once the story arrives, we wait for something more to happen, but not much does. The ending thinks that it's offering a twist, but it's really only leading to one inevitable conclusion.

So, what is going on for the rest of the running time, you may ask? Talking. The Counselor was written by novelist/screenwriter Cormac McCarthy. I can only imagine that Ridley Scott didn't want to disrespect McCarthy, so he kept in all of the dialogue. The problem with this is that we are treated to scene-after-scene where characters simply drone on about nothing. Very little of dialogue motivates the story or gives us background information on the characters, thus, in the world of movies, it is practically pointless. Instead, we get people spoutig non-sense philosophy. The movie's nadir is the scene which is most likely the only thing that you've heard about The Counselor, which is where Reiner describes an odd sexual encounter with Malinka. I honestly don't know what the point of this scene was, other than to reinforce the fact that Malinka is crazy, but I truly felt sorry for everyone involved.

The Counselor commits the ultimate cinematic sin -- it's boring. Ridley Scott isn't exactly known for action-packed movies (that was his late brother, Tony Scott), but this film is slow and uneventful, even for him. Even when something is happening, it typically feels pointless. The movie also does very little to hide its themes, which deal with the fact that crime doesn't pay and how quickly one can lose control of their lives. But, these aren't exactly original ideas and some of the notions here feel very similar to those found in No Country for Old Men, which McCarthy also wrote. Obviously, the craziest thing about The Counselor is that with the amount of talent involved here, something good should have come from it. But, all of the actors come across as if they are simply playing versions of characters we've seen them play in other movies. With his crazy hair, Bardem looks like an anime character, and Cameron Diaz simply looks tired. It's ironic that the film is titled The Counselor, because it could certainly use a mental health evaluation.

The Counselor adds another item to the list of motorcycle riding hazards on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no defects from the source material. However, Scott is a director who can't resist a slightly grainy image at times, so we get some "artistic" grain here, but it's not distracting. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good ("I'll bet that some actors hate HD." good.) and the depth works well in many shots. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The movie offers a nice selection quiet and louder scenes, and the track handles them well. Street sounds and passing traffic work well in the front channels, which provide nice stereo effects. The one big action scenes delivers surround sound effects which produce some individual noises. This same scene provides notable subwoofer action.

The Counselor Blu-ray Disc contains just a few extras. "Viral Pieces: Uncut" (7 minutes) contain three segments -- "Laura", "The Counselor", and "Malinka and Reiner" -- which play like odd deleted scenes from the movie. And while these seem pointless, the lingerie shopping scene is more exciting than anything in the movie. The other extras are three THEATRICAL TRAILERS and ten TV SPOTS.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long