Michael Fassbender leads a class-A cast in Ridley Scott's grimly stylish crime thriller as the titular lawyer whose decision to enter the drug trade proves horribly unwise. With sex, death and greed high on the agenda, the first original screenplay from Pulitzer Prize winner Cormac McCarthy (The Road, No Country for Old Men) provides plenty of philosophical meat for everyone to chew on, including the Counsellor's shadiest client Javier Bardem, cartel middleman Brad Pitt and Cameron Diaz as the femme fatale who pulls everybody's strings. The extended cut includes extra material.
Anyone familiar with the work of Cormac McCarthy will be aware that his pen does not exactly flow with the milk of human kindness. So it'll come as no surprise that his first bespoke movie script bears all the joie de vivre of a drug mule who's just developed belly ache.
While presented as a glossy crime thriller, The Counsellor feels more like a particularly tough philosophy lecture, offering metaphorical and existential musings on sex, death, religion, sex, greed, love, sex, commitment and consequence. But mostly sex.
It begins with Michael Fassbender's unnamed lawyer (everyone calls him 'Counsellor') making his girlfriend Laura (Penelope Cruz) squeal. First in bed, then later with an engagement ring.
His biggest client, gaudy entrepreneur Reiner (Bardem), also has his hands full with the constantly on-heat Malkina (Diaz, vamping it up to the hilt), a manipulative maneater who comes with two pet cheetahs and - if you didn't already get that she's a predator - a back full of leopard-spot tattoos.
Anyway, despite having it pretty good, the counsellor wants his perma-tanned pal to help him invest in the world's most volatile market: hard drugs from Mexico. One meeting with Brad Pitt's slick go-between Westray later, and he's in.
Unfortunately, the counsellor's commitment to another client - small-time jailbird Rosie Perez - sees him come under suspicion from the cartel when a truck containing $20million-worth of their product is... misappropriated.
Innocence is no defence. Heads will roll. In fact, one already has.
For every neat soundbite ("Truth has no temperature" says Malkina on being accused of sounding cold) there are a dozen pronouncements of the "dying is easy / grief is worthless / life is like a boxachocolates" variety. And the counsellor's first meeting with Westray is ripped straight from the revered De Niro/Pacino coffee shop scene in Heat.
Perhaps it's all just his way of showing what a cynical world this is. If so, message understood. Coolly executed and relentlessly unforgiving, The Counsellor makes The Road look positively yellow-bricked.