Matt Adcock’s film review: The Counsellor’s A-list credentials add up to a thrill-packed cautionary tale

Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz in The Counsellor
Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz in The Counsellor

“I suspect that we are ill-formed for the path we have chosen. Ill-formed and ill-prepared. We would like to draw a veil over all the blood and terror that have brought us to this place.

“It is our faintness of heart that would close our eyes to all of that, but in so doing it makes of it our destiny...

“But nothing is crueller than a coward, and the slaughter to come is probably beyond our imagining...”

The Counsellor is a dark, violent crime-and-punishment thriller with A-list names attached at every level.

Esteemed Brit director Ridley ‘Gladiator’ Scott brings his trademark visual flair to the screen.

The heavy-duty original screenplay is courtesy of Cormac ‘No Country For Old Men’ McCarthy.

In front of the camera there is a stunning triple A cast led by Michael ‘Prometheus’ Fassbender as a hotshot lawyer, only referred to as ‘counsellor’ throughout the movie, who is head over heels in love with Penelope Cruz and plans to make her his wife.

Unfortunately he has got himself into a bit of pickle financially and is gambling everything on getting involved with a Colombian drug deal that could make him close to $20million.

But with great potential wealth comes massive risk – and we all know that drug cartels are not made up of the sort of people brimming with peace, love and understanding who laugh it off when things go pear-shaped. Also on hand are Javier ‘Skyfall’ Bardem, who lives a very lavish lifestyle from ill-gotten gains, Cameron Diaz as his glamorous but untrustworthy girlfriend, and Brad Pitt as an amoral advisor.

Just how far the counsellor has drifted from any sense of normality or safety is clear as soon as the shipment he is banking on is stolen.

What follows is a compelling, dialogue-heavy descent into ultra-violence and paranoia.

The few action scenes are sparingly used but they pack a serious punch – especially one character’s death on the streets of London that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

Cruz and Diaz bring counter- balancing sexiness, one playing the good woman and the other her evil opposite. Bardem and Pitt add decent scenery but The Counsellor is all about Fassbender, who eats up every scene in some style.

This isn’t a film for everyone – it’s brutal and offensive in places but at heart it’s a meaty and thought- provoking ‘crime does not pay’ cautionary tale.