The Counsellor (18)

Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Michael Fassbender, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz
FACT, Liverpool
From 15th November 2013

Reviewed by Darren Guy

Not quite sure why it's called the counsellor. I suppose it sounds better than 'the lawyer.' 'The counsellor' (Michael Fassbender) is a 'naïve' and, one gathers, a less than successful lawyer. He has decided to hedge his bets on a one time only get rich quick drug deal. Unwilling to take the personal and 'business' advice from his dodgy connections about the pitfalls, he decides to gamble all to make his fortune.

And what has made him do this? Well, the counsellor is in 'love' with Laura (Penelope Cruz) and he wants to impress her and secure their life together. But in the meantime the flirtatious cold hearted, aging Malkina (Cameron Diaz), is in a relationship with Reiner (Javier Bardem), 'the counsellor's' drug dealing friend, and Malkina is much more sophisticated and ruthless than them all.

The Counsellor is more a psychological and philosophical movie, maybe more akin psychologically to 'Scarface' than 'Goodfellows', but without the action and the characters. Its major statement is that there is no half measures. Once you've made the walk over to the dark side there is no going back.

At moments the counsellor is gripping, it is intelligent, with psychosocial and philosophical intensity.

My criticism is the film crisscrosses itself with very little structure and struggles to tie the various subplots together. The film peaked two thirds the way through and spent the last third trying to tie these loose ends together. The characters, with the exception of the characters played by Fassbender and Diaz, are paper-thin. In fact Diaz is excellent, but the 'love' that drives the counsellor to the once in a life time deal, is hardly credible, maybe that is the point. Some might argue the film is misogynist, in the fact that the women in the film are to blame for the downfall of all the men. But despite these criticisms the film is well worth a watch. Its strength is in the questions it raises, and exploration of the depths that humans can sink when they follow their greed. It offers, unlike other gangster films, no romantic notions about the underworld.

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