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'The Counselor' is Thinking Man's Gangster Flick

by Todd A. Smith

The Thinking Gangsters


            The Counselor (Michael Fassbender) seems to have it all.  He has a beautiful girlfriend, Laura (Penelope Cruz); a successful law practice and a Bentley.

            However, greed is a funny thing for many people.  No matter how much success and material wealth some accumulate, it is not enough to satisfy superficial desires.  We often want more; regardless if that means pushing the boundary legally and morally.

            Legal money is cool, but it is definitely not as lucrative as the money generated by the Mexican drug cartel.

            The cartel can provide the Counselor with the lucrative lifestyle that he desires.  He can have the extravagant homes like his friend Reiner (Javier Bardem), and possibly an exotic mistress like Malkina (Cameron Diaz)

            The type of money that can be made in the drug game entices the Counselor to not only bend the law, but to work outside of the same law that he has advocated for his entire career.

            Once a person crosses the dark side into the underbelly of the Mexican drug cartel, there is no salvation and no repentance. 

As Westray (Brad Pitt) tells the Counselor, Jesus was not born in Mexico because he could not find three wise men and a virgin.  The drug cartel is filled with cold-blooded, cash-hungry murderers who shoot people first, then come outside to see who they killed.  Human life is not valued, regardless if it’s the life of a soldier or that of a civilian.

After a decision is made to link up with the cartel, one has to deal with the reality of violence and manipulation for the rest of their lives, and the threat it poses to loved ones who have no affiliation with that criminal lifestyle.

            The decision to involve oneself in the drug game could give one every material wish they ever wanted, but it can also take away everything and everyone that one holds dear to their heart.

            The trailer notwithstanding, “The Counselor” is not the typical gangster or action film.

            Sure there is violence, but the film deals more with the psychological and the implications of getting involved in the criminal lifestyle.

            “The Counselor” is the type of film that might take a few days of mental marinating to fully appreciate it.

            The majority of the film is spent understanding the psyche of the players involved and people in general.

            Can a man truly understand a woman?  What makes a woman like Malkina tick?  Can they ever be truly trusted?

            What are the ramifications of earning a quick and illegal buck?  Is material wealth true wealth at all?  Is gaining the world worth losing your soul or your loved ones?

            “The Counselor” spends a little too much time on a proverbial psychologist’s couch, but that could be what separates it from other films in this genre.

            Reiner teaches the Counselor the psyche of a woman, and Westray teaches him the reality of the drug game for better or worse.

            Not to be mistaken, the film is filled with action from beheadings to electronic and mechanical strangulation.

            However, the film has more to offer like fascinating dialogue, which may require a second viewing, and the true effect that the gangster lifestyle has on the soul of a sane human being like the Counselor.

            Ultimately, the film shows how one can lose everything as a result of chasing the things in life that do not matter, or the things they do not need.







This article was published on Friday 25 October, 2013.
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