‘The Counselor’ (2013) review: Quotable sleaze

Westray (Brad Pitt, left) outlines the harsh truths of the Counselor's (Michael Fassbender) predicament in "The Counselor." (Photo credit: Kerry Brown)

Westray (Brad Pitt, left) outlines the harsh truths of the Counselor’s (Michael Fassbender) predicament in “The Counselor.” (Photo credit: Kerry Brown)

‘The Counselor’ could use some counseling itself

It doesn’t take much to get jazzed about “The Counselor,” which has what must be one of the most enviable ensembles around: Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brat Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz. Not to mention it’s directed by Ridley Scott from a screenplay by Cormac McCarthy.

Sadly, it takes even less time to find yourself sorely disappointed in the cautionary tale that is “The Counselor.” From strange casting — Diaz as a femme fatale? — to insanely drawn-out musings — which will stir feelings both profound and disgusting throughout the film — Scott’s film revels in the very sin it’s trying to portray in the sleaziest of manners: greed. Too much of a good thing, right?

One of the film’s major draws comes from the fact that this is McCarthy’s first screenplay. Several of the famous author’s books have been adapted for film, most notably Joel and Ethan Coen’s Oscar-winning “No Country for Old Men.” There’s also “The Road” and “All the Pretty Horses.” Now that he’s writing the script, his penchant for exploring the greed and evil that can overtake and consume man — such a resonate theme in his works — makes itself known here like no other time before.

This time around, McCarthy’s story involves a one-off drug cartel deal. Our central character, The Counselor (Fassbender), wants to complete this deal and then he’s out. Because that’s exactly what happens every time you deal with cartels in Ciudad Juarez and El Paso.

Bardem and Pitt are the Counselor’s business associates, Reiner and Westray; Cruz is his beloved Laura; and Diaz, playing Malkina, is the techie plaything of Bardem’s character. Oh, she also owns a pair of cheetahs. Awesome, right?

To go much further with plot would enter the world of spoilers, and it greatly damage any reason to check this quote-worthy film out. McCarthy is in rare form, turing his musings into dark unmentionables. Moral decisions — and their consequences — run rampant, with the death sequences something to behold. It’s a film made for people who love film, no matter how overwhelming that can be.

“The Counselor,” boiled down, seems to want to portray a message about men and women, along with all that old-fashioned greed and evil. What that message is depends on how you examine the situation. Let’s just say “The Counselor” could use some counseling itsetf.

Three “where’s the thrill?” stars out of five.

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