The Counselor Movie Poster Image

The Counselor

Gripping, violent drama about dangers of the drug trade.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 111 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

While there's some positive messages about love overcoming greed, the overall tone is dark and depressing.

Positive role models

Penelope Cruz plays a girlfriend who loves purely and give of herself freely. Everyone else is a mixed bag, but most are involved in the drug trade and treading a morally suspect path.


An overwhelming sense of dread runs throughout the film. A few characters are beheaded in nasty ways, their headless bodies shown. A dead body is seen shoved in a oil drum. Gunfights, sometimes at close range, lead to many deaths and the bodies are shown bloody and mangled, up close. A woman is abducted and a man is shown hitting her. Characters discuss in detail how people are tortured and killed. 


The movie starts with a scene depicting oral sex; there's no genitalia visible, but there's a man's head between a woman's legs and it's clear what's happening. In another scene, a woman is shown taking off her underwear and rubbing against a car, to climax.


Plenty of profanity, including "s--t," "ass," "son-of-a-bitch," "damn," hell," "p---y", and lots of uses of "f--k."


Apple products are visible, as are Ferrari, Porsche, Yamaha, and Ford vehicles. Maalox is used.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Lots of social drinking, usually hard liquor. The film is about a drug deal gone awry so characters are shown smuggling cocaine. A character mentions needing Oxy-Contin.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this dark, fairly compelling drama featuring a star-studded cast -- Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz -- is best for the oldest of teens and adults, who won't likely be overwhelmed by the bleakness and graphic violence in it. Some sex scenes, though not showing genitalia, are fairly graphic in setup, depicting couples having oral sex and, in one scene, a fetishistic act. Characters swear often ("bitch" and "f--k").

What's the story?

The titular, and unnamed, Counselor (Michael Fassbender) in this sleek, savage action drama is tired of staying in his lane. Defending criminals who've landed in jail, wrongfully or not, won't cut it anymore, not when he's in love with a beautiful, sweet woman, Laura (Penelope Cruz), with whom he wants to have a happily, and gorgeous, ever after. But his would-be partner in the drug trade, nightclub owner Reiner (Javier Bardem), warns him that no matter how dangerous one imagines it to be, it's even more dangerous. There are no codes of conduct. There are no laws of engagement. Reiner's girlfriend, Malkina (Cameron Diaz), seems to know a thing or two about that danger. Reiner's former associate, Westray (Brad Pitt), who knows how dirty and destructive the business can get, issues his own admonitions, too. But the Counselor won't change his mind. He has just bought a near-flawless diamond for Laura; he envisions a bigger life; and he wants in, and then quickly out. But as he soon discovers, the cost of doing business this way is high -- very high.

Is it any good?


Ridley Scott is a stylish director, and he swabs a glossy sheen over THE COUNSELOR that he then systematically destroys once he's in too deep. It's a punishing process that leaves the audience at the edge of their seats, but exhausted and a little confused, too. Crowded with personalities large and quite possibly deranged, The Counselor attacks the senses like a well-timed hit, but the comedown is harsh. Scott's a master at creating an overwhelming sense of foreboding, especially when violence is just around the corner, but it's nearly unrelenting and, as a result, fatigues. Without room to breathe, the audience can't appreciate the artistry.

Cormac McCarthy, who wrote the screenplay, lives in a bleak, depressing world, and draws fascinating, complicated characters that make you feel uncomfortable in your own skin. But his Counselor seems oddly naive for a lawyer who works in a challenging profession -- how many warnings does he need? -- and the dialogue, though displaying a wit and intelligence few scripts possess, seems better on paper than said and heard out loud. (They're spoken like finely honed paragraphs.) Also, we get too many hints of what lies ahead, as if Scott wanted to make sure we were paying attention. In the end, we are left with too many questions, one of which is central to the story: Why did the Counselor stray from his usual path? And this: Do we care enough to puzzle it out?

Families can talk about...

  • Parents can talk about the motivation of the main character. Why would he want to delve into criminal activity? How is the audience supposed to react to his choices?

  • Talk about how the film portrays the price of being involved in drug trafficking. Does the movie glamorize it?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 25, 2013
DVD/Streaming release date:February 11, 2014
Cast:Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz
Director:Ridley Scott
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox
Run time:111 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content and language

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 17 years old Written byletztalkmoveez November 17, 2013


One of the strangest and most hideous movie train wrecks in recent years, and an embarrassing black mark on the record of its supreme talent. Shame on everyone involved in this stupid, disgusting, pseudo-intellectual s**t-storm.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written byStevie111 October 27, 2013

Very good crime film

Intense crime drama has strong sexuality, and infrequent but SICK violence.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Parent Written byopenminded_dad October 29, 2013

Couldn't Get Any Worse

This was one of the worst films I've ever seen. This brilliant cast treated us to a pretentious, completely disjointed script. None of the 'dramatic scenes' advanced the plot and none of the sex scenes even seemed to be *connected* to the plot. No child should see this film. In fact, no adult should see it either. It was worse than bad.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking