DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

The Counselor: Blu-ray + Digital HD UltraViolet Review

The Counselor (2013) movie poster The Counselor

Theatrical Release: October 25, 2013 / Running Time: 117 Minutes (theatrical), 138 Minutes (extended) / Rating: R (theatrical), Unrated (extended)

Director: Ridley Scott / Writer: Cormac McCarthy

Cast: Michael Fassbender (Counselor), Penélope Cruz (Laura), Cameron Diaz (Malkina), Javier Bardem (Reiner), Brad Pitt (Westray), Bruno Ganz (Diamond Dealer), Rosie Perez (Ruth), Sam Spruell (Wireman), Toby Kebbell (Tony), Edgar Ramírez (Priest), Rubén Blades (Jefe), Natalie Dormer (Blonde), Goran Visnjic (Banker), Dean Norris (Buyer), Richard Cabral (Young Biker), Emma Rigby (Tony's Girlfriend), Fernando Cayo (Abogado Hernandez), John Leguizamo (Randy - uncredited)

Buy The Counselor from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HDDVDInstant Video

For nearly forty years, American author Cormac McCarthy was content to have his sporadic stream of novels and plays exist only in print and on stage. The one exception was The Gardener's Son, a 1976 screenplay he wrote for the PBS anthology series "Visions." McCarthy's next brush with the film world came in 2000's adaptation All the Pretty Horses.
Directed by Billy Bob Thornton and starring Matt Damon, the film was a significant commercial and critical flop. Seven years later, his then new novel was brought to the screen by none other than brothers Joel and Ethan Coen to a perfectly opposite reception. No Country for Old Men won four Oscars, including Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay, and made a considerable amount of money in the process.

Since that film, Hollywood has shown greater interest in adapting McCarthy's writing, but the results haven't been as favorable. The Road, a 2009 filming of his Pulitzer Prize-winning, Oprah-celebrated post-apocalyptic 2006 novel, failed to attract an audience and to meet awards expectations for a Thanksgiving Weinstein Company release. The HBO movie The Sunset Limited adapted McCarthy's play to mixed reviews and few accolades. Child of God, adapted from a 1973 novel and directed by James Franco, was unable to secure a distributor after festival screenings in Venice, Toronto, New York, and Austin last year.

Instead of just letting others attempt to tell his stories on film, the 80-year-old McCarthy recently returned to the task of writing an original script for the first time in over thirty-five years. The author wrote and executive-produced The Counselor, a contemporary dramatic thriller that attracted a cast of international stars and accomplished, versatile director Ridley Scott of Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, American Gangster, and Prometheus fame.

Drug kingpin Reiner (Javier Bardem) and his girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz) make for one of 2013's flashier onscreen couples in Cormac McCarthy's "The Counselor."

The Counselor recalls No Country in a number of ways, including the Texas-Mexico border as its primary setting, a drug money-driven plot, unflinching violence, and its use of Javier Bardem in a bold, focal role. Michael Fassbender plays the lead, an attorney known only as "The Counselor." He seems like an okay guy: affluent, professional, and with a girlfriend (Penélope Cruz) he loves. But he's in business with drug kingpins, a dangerous racket he doesn't seem especially suited for.

The Counselor's latest job sees him dealing with the extravagant Reiner (Bardem), his kinky predatory girlfriend Malkina (Cameron Diaz), and cowboy chic middleman Westray (Brad Pitt). The specifics of this partnership are left vague. Westray is cautionary of the lawyer's involvement and estimates the value of this unspoken transaction at around $20 million. It all goes to hell after The Counselor does a favor for an incarcerated former client (Rosie Perez), paying a $400 speeding fine for which her son has been jailed. The repercussions of that act are wide-reaching and spell doom for The Counselor and virtually everyone else in his life.

McCarthy and, as a result, Scott are far more interested in fallout and guilt than in the actual crimes committed. There are pieces of plot here and there: a body hidden in an oil drum, a dance club about to be opened, a wedding proposal, a beheading. On occasion, there is tremendous attention to detail. But neither the scribe nor the director seem too concerned with you knowing and following the complete story. They'd much rather you invest in the emotions and gain something deep from the experience.

In the title role of "The Counselor", Michael Fassbender plays an attorney who gets more deeply involved in the world of drug smuggling than he's equipped for. Middleman Westray (Brad Pitt) strikes a cautionary tone in talking to The Counselor.

That apparently isn't something moviegoers want from their star-studded thrillers. The Counselor wound up being one of 2013's biggest box office busts, its just under $17 million domestic haul the smallest of any film released to over 3,000 theaters.
Drubbed by critics at a rate of 2 to 1, the film was shunned by audiences and assigned a lowly "D" CinemaScore by those who did see it. Despite the late October release date anticipating some awards contention, the only honor it vied for was Fassbender's British Actor of the Year nomination from London Critics Circle Award, which presumably came more for his work in 12 Years a Slave.

It's easy to understand why audiences weren't tickled by this picture, which uncomfortably opens with a scene of pillow talk and cunnilingus and near its end features some brief carnage sure to induce cringes from even the most desensitized viewer. As in Pitt's Killing Them Softly, released a year earlier to decent reviews but public scorn and disinterest, The Counselor shows little regard for viewer comprehension and enjoyment.

McCarthy's script is more interested in language than in audience. It repeatedly indulges in extended conversations between loquacious individuals on topics ranging from diamond grading to a lethal weapon called the Bolito. These may seem random and tangential, less important than the specifics of the drug smuggling plan kept so sketchy. But they define characters and add up to something more. Clearly-drawn lines of morality and standard crime thriller chases won't cut it for the writer, who instead uses this for an almost metaphysical rumination on mortality and unchangeable fate. That distinguishes this film from lesser and less imaginative genre efforts. It also will frustrate those wanting the movie this looks like. Frankly, though it might not have the same impact as No Country, it's cut from the same mold and not noticeably more challenging or less sympathetic than that unusually dark award winner.

The Counselor makes interesting and unusual use of the exciting talent it assembles. Sporting an almost flawless American accent, Fassbender is very good in the lead role and better than he's been in his more widely celebrated performances. Bardem embraces the loud fashions and Brian Grazer hair he's given. Cruz fans will be disappointed by how little she's used, disappearing early despite second billing. Reuniting with Scott over two decades since Thelma & Louise, Pitt commands the screen in his handful of scenes. This kind of offbeat character work has come to seem more appealing to him than vehicles relying on his star power. Probably the most divisive performance comes from Diaz. Against type and with her looks starting to fade, she does her best Ellen Barkin impression as an icy minx. She also puts on a Barbados accent briefly, a tactic that apparently would have run throughout the film if not for post-production looping. Instead, we're left undistracted to contemplate the connection between this character with a spotted back tattoo and the pet cheetahs she owns, a running motif.

After its lifeless showing in theaters, no one could have guessed that The Counselor would get a two-disc Blu-ray release. But that is what Fox has given it, placing the R-rated theatrical cut and an extended unrated one on separate platters, each with their own set of bonus features. The unrated cut is significantly extended, running 20½ minutes longer. It is apparently the product of numerous extensions throughout rather than the addition of a couple of big sequences. For example, according to Scott's audio commentary, the already plenty long diamond-buying scene gains an additional six minutes.

The Counselor: Blu-ray + Digital HD UltraViolet cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English); Theatrical Cut only: DTS 5.1 (Castilian, Italian, Russian), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Descriptive Service, Spanish, French, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English SDH, Castilian, Dutch, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian
Extras Subtitled; Not Closed Captioned
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50s)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Slipcover
Also available as DVD ($29.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video


Ridley Scott is no novice filmmaker and his technical expertise is on full display in the Blu-ray's terrific feature presentation. The sharp, spotless, vibrant 2.40:1 picture and dynamic 5.1 DTS-HD master audio leave nothing whatsoever to be desired. Fox equips the theatrical cut with a host of foreign dubs and subtitles.

Laura (Penélope Cruz) gets chatted up in an airport in the first of three odd Viral Pieces: Uncut. Richard Roeper endorses the film in one of ten preserved TV spots.


Disc 1's extras begin with three strange shorts called "Viral Pieces: Uncut" (7:29). I assume that means they were created to market the film,
though they feel like they could be deleted scenes. The first finds Penélope Cruz's character chatting up a stranger in the airport, the second sees Michael Fassbender's protagonist buying lingerie, and the third having Bardem's character meeting Diaz for the first time at a gas station.

Fox usually includes a film's trailer on Blu-ray, but The Counselor gets a full blown marketing section. Included here are three trailers called G, H and I (running 5:50 altogether), two of them quite similar (on the whole, they can't decide whether to mention Cormac McCarthy by name or as the No Country author), and ten short TV spots (adding up to 4:50). I don't think you can blame these promotions for the disappointing returns, which seemed more impacted by cold reviews and toxic word of mouth.

Disc One opens with trailers for the new RoboCop (which isn't a Fox film), Runner Runner, 12 Years a Slave, and Out of the Furnace. The Sneak Peek section adds an MGM 90th Anniversary promo and The Family trailer to those four disc-openers.

Ridley Scott directs the film in European desert standing in for the Southwest in one of Disc 2's making-of featurettes. Cameron Diaz reveals she had doubts about signing on to this project in her "Truth of the Situation" interview clips.

Disc Two's only extra is "Truth of the Situation: Making The Counselor", a playback mode that extends the film to 3 hours, 36 minutes, and 1 second with Ridley Scott audio commentary and 13 behind-the-scenes featurettes (1:18:32) which you can also view on their own or as one feature-length making-of documentary. The featurettes are substantial material covering all the bases, from the script and having Europe stand in for the Tex-Mex border to costuming, the lead actors and their roles,
shooting with multiple cameras, the acrobatics required for the infamous car scene, and working with cheetahs and the Bolito. Highlights include McCarthy's opinions on film sex and Diaz babbling about her tough decision to make the film.

Scott's commentary, which unfortunately can't be heard without the not easily-skipped interruptions, runs into the limitations of most solo tracks, but he does an admirable job of saying something relevant, to what's onscreen much of the time, even if it's often just identifying the filming locations. A few interesting remarks regarding Scott's experiences with the actors, and his casting and editing processes, specifically bits extended for this cut.

The same on each disc, the menu plays film clips in fractured trapezoids to the opening titles' score. The discs gladly both support bookmarks and resume playback.

A slipcover with the same front artwork and more rear imagery tops the eco-friendly keepcase, which places the discs takes on opposite sides, joined by an insert with directions to redeeming your included Digital HD/UltraViolet digital copy.

The extended cut of "The Counselor" gives us an elongated version of the protagonist's (Michael Fassbender) diamond grading chat.


There are plenty of things in The Counselor that will turn off viewers and make sense of the film's public failings. For instance, Cormac McCarthy and Ridley Scott's film lets characters ramble while leaving the plot extremely hazy. While that design and moments of graphic violence make this a challenging viewing, it's definitely not a bad one. Interesting performances and powerful scenes render this thriller strangely compelling and intermittently rewarding. Perhaps not many viewers will immediately proclaim "I liked that!", but it's a film whose bold creative choices and unconventional big picture ideas you can admire, especially if you watch a lot of movies.

Fox's two-disc Blu-ray offers more than expected, particularly with the inclusion of an alternate cut and what can easily be viewed as a 70-minute making-of documentary. That the film is better than the bad wrap it got makes me want to recommend it, but it definitely won't be everyone's cup of tea.

Buy The Counselor from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Adapted from Cormac McCarthy: No Country for Old MenThe Road | Directed by Ridley Scott: Body of Lies
Michael Fassbender: X-Men: First Class1 | Penelope Cruz: NineTo Rome with Love
Cameron Diaz: Being John MalkovichBad TeacherKnight and Day | Javier Bardem: Eat Pray Love
Brad Pitt: Killing Them SoftlyWorld War ZThe Tree of LifeThe Curious Case of Benjamin ButtonMoneyball
The FirmThe RainmakerJackie BrownPain & GainBlood Simple.
New: Charlie CountrymanWadjdaAustenlandDallas Buyers ClubLife of a KingWatchtowerThe Postman Always Rings Twice

DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

Search This Site:

DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed February 17, 2014.

Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 20th Century Fox, Scott Free, Nick Wechsler, Chockstone Pictures, TSG Entertainment, Ingenious Media,
and 2014 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.