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'The Counselor' DVD Review

'The Counselor'

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Director Ridley Scott's 'The Counselor' boasts an eclectic cast of top-tier acting talent, a twisty plot, and some terrific dialog courtesy of screenwriter Cormac McCarthy.

Brad Pitt promoting '12 Years a Slave'
Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Largely overlooked by audiences in the Fall of 2013, 'The Counselor' might be worth your time as a rental.

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Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, and Cameron Diaz fill out the primary roles in this crime drama. From an original screenplay by Cormac McCarthy ('The Road,' 'No Country for Old Men') the characters in 'The Counselor' are blessed with some of the fanciest conversations in recent film memory.

Fancy may not be the right word. Let's just say that, in cinematic terms, this incredible ensemble of acting talent is provided many an opportunity to do some serious scene chewing. McCarthy's script here is bleak, nihilistic, perversely insightful, and almost plays out like a foreign language.

The dialog is so densely constructed that comparisons to watching a foreign film or an adaptation of Shakespeare might be akin to this experience. You have to "get an ear for it" as the movie unfolds, but once you do...the script (and the performances) makes it worth the effort.

The plot concerns the 'Counselor' (Michael Fassbender, whose character's given name is never revealed) who, after deciding to take a dip into the drug-trafficking pool, learns that pulling off a drug deal for some quick cash might not be as easy as it seems.

His morality-challenged partners in crime are played by Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt, as veteran drug dealers who live lavishly and serve as mentors to the Counselor along the way.

Add to the mix Penelope Cruz, as the Counselor's fiancée and Cameron Diaz (in a brilliantly out of character turn) as Bardem's scheming girlfriend with some surprising cameos from other character actors.

The plot isn't anything revelatory. It's a crime drama. We've all seen the "one last score" film before, and we know that it will end badly for some. What you probably haven't seen is this caliber of talented acting, directing, and screenwriting coming together for a pulpy crime film. 'The Counselor' is about as lavish a production as you're going to find for this type of movie.

I can't call 'The Counselor' a morality tale, however, since there's precious little morality on display in Ridley Scott's film. Let's you and I agree on referring to 'The Counselor' as a "cautionary tale" instead.

'The Counselor' makes a great pairing for a double feature with Tony Scott's 'True Romance' on several levels. Crisp dialog, terrific scenery-chewing by famous movie stars, violent action sequences, and slick production values characterize both films.

Whereas 'The Counselor' may prove itself to be a more mature vision of the perils of greed, 'True Romance' is the more consistently entertaining feature. Think of 'The Counselor' as a better-pedigreed, more "artsy-fartsy" version of the Tony Scott-Quentin Tarantino collaboration that was 'True Romance.'

What separates the two films is the grimness that surrounds 'The Counselor' and its protagonists. There is a darkness and sullenness that McCarthy brings to the table with his screenplay that stands in stark contrast to Tarantino's work.

I love 'No Country for Old Men,' 'The Road,' and 'The Counselor' for the bleakness that Cormac McCarthy brings to his work. Just a fair warning here, that I do enjoy the darker-themed dramas on occasion. 'The Counselor' definitely fits within McCarthy's other filmed works. While this filmed version of his writing isn't as well-executed as 'No Country,' or 'The Road,' it does fit in nicely tonally with those films.

'The Counselor' Flixnerd Rating: ★★★☆☆