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Ridley Scott
Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz
Writing Credits:
Cormac McCarthy

Want It All. Risk It All. Lose It All.

An all-star cast, featuring Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, and Penelope Cruz, sizzles in this "lurid, adrenaline-fueled thriller" (Alexandra Alter, The Wall Street Journal) from visionary director Ridley Scott and Acclaimed Novelist, Cormac McCarthy. A talented lawyer (Fassbender) known for doing the right thing for the wrong people decides to put his connections to the test by diving into a treacherous drug deal for some quick cash. But The Counselor soon learns that having it all could mean losing everything.

Box Office:
$25 million.
Opening Weekend
$7,842,930 on 3,044 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R/Unrated

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Descriptive Audio 5.1 (Theatrical Cut Only)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (Theatrical Cut Only)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (Theatrical Cut Only)
Castillian DTS 5.1 (Theatrical Cut Only)
Italian DTS 5.1 (Theatrical Cut Only)
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 (Theatrical Cut Only)
Russian DTS 5.1 (Theatrical Cut Only)
Lithuanian Dolby Digital 5.1 (Theatrical Cut Only)
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 117 min. (Theatrical Version)
138 min. (Unrated Extended Cut)
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 2/11/2014

• Both Theatrical and Unrated Extended Versions of Film
• “Viral Pieces: Uncut” Featurettes
• “Truth of the Situation: Making The Counselor” Interactive Program
• Sneak Peeks
• Trailers and TV Spots


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Counselor [Blu-Ray] (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 4, 2014)

When previews for 2013’s The Counselor appeared, it looked like a “can’t miss” proposition. Legendary director? Check. Noteworthy writer? Check. Cast packed with stars and Oscar winners? Checkety-check-check-check!

Even as “can’t miss” as the film sounded, though, it did miss – and it missed badly. The Counselor received largely negative reviews and despite all its star power, it tanked at the box office. A movie that should’ve been a hit/Oscar-bait/both turned into a flashy bomb.

The movie’s utter failure made me perversely interested to see it – at least on Blu-ray. I’ll be damned if I was going to shell out $10 to be stuck in a multiplex with this alleged stinker!

A high-priced, successful lawyer simply referred to as “The Counselor” (Michael Fassbender) decides to enter into an illicit deal. He partners with a client named Reiner (Javier Bardem) to become involved in drug trade.

This leads to a meeting with Westray (Brad Pitt), an associate of Reiner’s. Eager for the money, the Counselor engages in a plan that leads to an escalating series of dire situations and predicaments.

Or something like that. Counselor delivers such a slow, plodding experience that I can’t guarantee I didn’t nod off once or twice – or 67 times - along the way.

Dear Lord, how did this disaster make it to the screen? “Slow and plodding” is bad enough, but Counselor comes burdened with some of the most pretentious, ponderous dialogue ever sprayed across a cinema wall. I can’t blame all of the movie’s flaws on the lines, but they create an enormous problem – and an insurmountable one, honestly.

Cormac McCarthy earned a Pulitzer as a novelist, and a movie based on his work went onto snare a Best Picture Oscar less than a decade ago. This indicates that a) McCarthy displays serious talent as an author and b) his style can translate well to the movie screen.

What this doesn’t demonstrate is c) McCarthy can write a screenplay. Counselor represents his first-ever big-screen script, and it displays no talent for the format at all. Virtually every problem one could find in a screenplay manifests during this disaster – especially related to that awful, awful dialogue.

I won’t claim that Counselor comes with the worst lines committed to the movie screen, as I know I could find crummier. However, I doubt I could find more flawed material composed by a writer of actual talent.

I knew I was in trouble a few minutes in, as Fassbender finds himself forced to utter “you have the most luscious pussy in all of Christendom”. Seriously? Would anyone ever speak like that? No, and ridiculous comments such as that do the next to impossible: they make a sex scene between Fassbender and Penelope Cruz 100 percent unerotic.

And it gets worse from there. After that we find gems like this exchange between Reiner and his wife Malkina (Cameron Diaz):

“You don’t think that’s a bit cold?”

“I think truth has no temperature.”

Once again I must say: seriously? Does McCarthy have such a poor ear for film dialogue that he thinks lines like that work? Or maybe material that can work as part of a novel doesn’t automatically translate to cinema; I’m not sure the film’s many clunkers would’ve fit a book better, but I’m trying to give McCarthy the benefit of the doubt.

One thing’s for sure: McCarthy has no clue how to pace a film and tell it concisely. Counselor can’t meet a scene that it won’t turn into a dull, pointless philosophical discussion. No one does anything without extended, laborious chats about… God knows what.

That’s because Counselor speaks in nothing but staged, contrived conversations packed with analogies and metaphors. It seems to want every scene to be deep ‘n’ meaningful, whereas none of them reach that status. Instead, they feel phony and clumsy.

And what’s with the consistent use of British terms in a movie that takes place in Mexico and Texas? The Counselor says “haitch” to pronounce the letter “H”, we hear characters use “bloody” and “chaps” in the English way, and we also find “knickers” and “donnybrook” – it probably comes with more terms of this sort, but I couldn’t be bothered to keep track after a while. (Plus, I can’t fully account for those 67 unplanned naps I may have taken along the way.)

Is it unfair for me to almost entirely blame McCarthy’s atrocious script for this film’s failure? Perhaps, but I do feel the screenplay causes the vast majority of the movie’s woes. I can’t overstate how bad and flawed McCarthy’s work is.

This leads to the $64,000 question: with such an awful screenplay, why didn’t the movie’s talented director and actors take pains to “fix it”? I’d guess that no one felt willing to tamper with the work of a notable like McCarthy – in other words, no one wanted to let him know he’d written a stinker, so they remained overly respectful of his text.

That’s the only semi-reasonable explanation I can conjure, as I certainly don’t see any obvious attempts by Scott or the actors to redeem this disaster. Scott seems surprisingly flat and unimaginative in his direction; he brings little to none of his usual flair to the project, as he usually appears content to shoot the action in as basic and rudimentary a manner as possible.

This leads to a relentlessly bland visual product – who thought the creator of Alien and Blade Runner would ever create something so flat and boring? None of the actors seem willing to extend themselves to add spark to the proceedings either; I suspect they exerted all the effort they could just to keep straight faces as they read the terrible dialogue, so that left them without energy to actually act.

For the last nine years, I’ve answered Meet the Fockers if asked to name the movie that wasted the most talent. I may need to amend that response, as The Counselor might deserve this “honor”. No matter who created it, the film winds up as a slow, idiotic dud.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

The Counselor appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, the transfer reproduced the movie in a satisfying manner.

Sharpness usually appeared crisp and detailed. A smidgen of softness popped up in a few wider shots, but those elements remained minor. Overall definition remained solid. Moiré effects and jagged edges showed no concerns, and edge enhancement failed to mar the presentation. Print flaws were non-existent.

Counselor went for a rather stylized look, which meant that colors usually appeared prominent in an artificial manner. Nonetheless, they came across as distinct within those parameters. The hues rarely looked natural, but they weren’t supposed to generate that appearance, so I was satisfied with the presentation found during the movie.

Black levels seemed to be deep and rich, while shadow detail was fairly clear and appropriately opaque. A couple of shots appeared slightly too dark, but not in a problematic manner. In the end, the image worked well for the material.

I thought the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio was good but not great. Music and dialogue dominated the soundscape, so don’t expect a killer mix. The score used the speakers well, and the effects fleshed out the environment in a positive manner.

Material tended toward the environmental side of the street, as livelier sequences popped up infrequently. Still, the mix offered a good sense of place, and the occasional semi-dynamic sequence boasted a strong impression.

Audio quality was always top-notch. Music sounded warm and full, while effects were clear and accurate. When necessary, the track featured tight low-end response. Speech sounded natural and distinctive. This was a perfectly acceptable soundtrack; it just didn’t do anything especially impressive.

The package includes both the theatrical version of The Counselor (1:57:14) as well as an unrated extended cut (2:17:56). What does that extra 20 minutes, 42 seconds bring the viewer? I don’t know, as I opted solely to screen the longer edition. Nonetheless, I wanted to mention that both cuts appear here.

Under Viral Pieces: Uncut, we locate three segments. These fill a total of seven minutes, 29 seconds and show segments devoted to these characters: “Laura”, “The Counselor” and “Malkina and Reiner”. These act like deleted scenes of a sort, as it adds a little exposition to the roles. None of this seems especially interesting, but it’s there if you want to see more of these folks.

Disc One opens with ads for Robocop (2014), Runner Runner, Out of the Furnace and 12 Years a Slave. These show up under Sneak Peek along with a promo for The Family. We also find three trailers and 10 TV spots for The Counselor.

In addition to the “Unrated Extended Cut”, Disc Two houses Truth of the Situation: Making The Counselor. This presents an audio commentary from director Ridley Scott combined with branching video segments. We get 13 of those, and they also can be viewed independently through a separate index.

For ease of discussion, I watched the video featurettes on their own. All together, the 13 pieces last one hour, 18 minutes and 32 seconds, and they feature notes from Scott, screenwriter Cormac McCarthy, production designer Arthur Max, special effects technician Matthew Horton, executive producer Mark Huffam, supervising location manager James Grant, costume designer Janty Yates, cheetah handler Alan Ames and actors Cameron Diaz, Michael Fassbender, and Javier Bardem. These segments look at the screenplay and the movie’s development, story/characters/themes, sets and locations, costumes, hair and effects, and additional areas.

As for Scott’s commentary, he covers editing and changes for the long version of the film, story/character areas, the script and themes, cast/performances and working with the actors, sets and locations, music and cinematography, and other topics.

One negative: although you can watch the featurettes individually, you can’t run the commentary without those video segments attached. That disappointed me, as I would’ve preferred to listen to the commentary n its own and then check out the featurettes.

That minor complaint aside, “Truth” works well. The commentary and the featurettes blend together quite nicely and create a fairly seamless experience. The two sides deliver a lot of good information about the movie and help us understand its creation.

Somehow The Counselor manages to gather ample talent on both sides of the camera and flush it down the toilet. Burdened with a painful script and a lack of any form of cinematic vision/creativity, the film fails in virtually every possible manner. The Blu-ray brings us good picture and audio along with an informative set of supplements. This becomes a quality package for a lousy movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 4
2 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main