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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

The Counsellor review

The Counselor red light Brad Pitt Michael Fassbender

Almost, but not quite, hilariously demented — if accidentally so — drama about sex and death, and why not to get involved with drug cartels.
I’m “biast” (pro): mostly like Ridley Scott; mostly love the cast

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

No one talks, in The Counsellor, the way that real people talk. Everyone — including one-scene cafe owners in Mexico and random priests in confession boxes — declaims at one another. Every line — and I do mean every line — of dialogue in this hilariously, if accidentally, demented movie is like this: “You will eventually come to a moral decision that will take you by surprise.” “I never knew my parents. They were thrown out of a helicopter into the Atlantic when I was three.” There’s a lot of philosophizing about sex, mostly about how scary and mysterious women are, and death, mostly about how it can teach one a lesson about something one really shouldn’t need a lesson about, like not to upset Mexican drug lords. No one merely steals a thing when they can arrange for a mysterious beheading in order to get their hands on an object. Perhaps the most ridiculous aspect here is that screenwriter Cormac McCarthy (The Road) and director Ridley Scott (Prometheus) clearly don’t want us to know the details of the deal that a good-guy lawyer (Michael Fassbender: Shame) does with a cartel rep (Javier Bardem: Skyfall), even when the deal goes bad; those aren’t as important as the would-be profound expounding on snuff films and coincidence. Those details we don’t need to know; we do need to appreciate that while men can be all sorts of nuanced, women are either Freakishly Bad (Cameron Diaz: In a World…) or Saintly Good (Penelope Cruz: I’m So Excited!). We do need to know that the worst thing that can happen, ever, is for a man to know that the woman he loves is dead. Worse than death is for her, even. Did I say demented? I meant disgusting.

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The Counselor (2013)
US/Can release: Oct 25 2013
UK/Ire release: Nov 15 2013

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated DDD: don’t do drugs
MPAA: rated R for graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content and language
BBFC: rated 18 (contains strong bloody violence)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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