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The Counselor

Authors like Edgar Wallace and Elmore Leonard made a virtue of writing about shady characters doing nefarious deeds.  How this dark underbelly would enclose once virtuous people made for riveting reading.  ‘The Counselor’ takes its cue from their crime-fuelled tomes.  Directed by the ever versatile Ridley Scott, who oversaw the similarly themed ‘Matchstick Men’, ‘The Counselor’ revels in a seedy atmosphere only his characters could enjoy.

 

A lawyer known only as ‘The Counselor’ (Michael Fassbender) is always looking for fast money.  Attempting to muscle in on a drug trafficking racket events soon turn nasty.  Meeting sinister people including middle-man Westray (Brad Pitt), Malkina (Cameron Diaz) and Reiner (Javier Bardem), the Counselor’s life becomes shaken.  If he is to avoid death he has to delve into his legal mind to escape its wretched clutches.

 

‘The Counselor’ provides a lesson in style winning over substance.  Whilst the ingredients are there for a cracking tale, very little comes to fruition.  How the Counselor slowly becomes entrapped in a violent scrum is intriguing as is the moral ambivalence of his crooked associates.  They aren’t really his friends as each has agendas in battling for every last vestige of power.  Although the performers give it their all the unfocussed story often works against their efforts.

 

For a story reliant on plot twists ‘The Counselor’ fails to utilise them effectively.  Most can be seen a mile away robbing the denouncement of its sting.  The plot meanders to a conclusion rather than being a tightly wound thriller.  There are good elements but Scott’s self-indulgent flourishes cushion their impact.  The few action scenes manage a modicum of tension even if the overall tale does not.

 

Promising much but delivering little ‘The Counselor’ is a disappointment.  The actors do what they can with the leaden material although it provides some diverting moments as it observes their character’s disreputable existence.

 

Rating out of 10:  5

Machete Kills

Director Robert Rodriguez does nothing by halves.  Having overseen the ‘Spy Kids’ and ‘Sin City’ films, his eye for kinetic action is unparalleled.  Tough, violent and completely over the top, his style has garnered a loyal fan-base.  ‘Machete Kills’ should only add to it.  A sequel to 2010’s ‘Machete’, it ramps up thrills to optimum level.  Having a moment’s breath will be impossible as Rodriguez presents an explosive ode to the pulpy movies he grew up with.

 

After his partner is killed during a drug bust, secret agent Machete (Danny Trejo) sets out on revenge.  When the American President (Charlie Sheen) gives him a new assignment, he discovers a crucial link.  Tasked with stopping a madman from firing a deadly rocket on American soil, Machete’s trail leads to sinister arms dealer Luther Voz (Mel Gibson).  Uncovering a plot to destroy earth, Machete aims to wreak vengeance upon those who dare cross his path.

 

Utterly ridiculous and proud of it ‘Machete’ is a lot of fun.  It has no pretensions to high art instead revelling in its high-octane exploits.  Death follows Machete everywhere with bullets, bodies and brawn on display.  The macho men are suitably menacing and feisty chicks add much spice.  Whilst it doesn’t always work and is a little too long, there is something for everyone.  Multitudes of sci-fi/action references also ensure fans can enjoy its cartoonish escapades.

 

‘Machete Kills’s’ greatest aspect is its imaginative scope.  Crafting some new wrinkles within the action stable, there are some amazingly realised fight sequences.  Its uncompromising path is welcome with a suitably epic feel despite being cheaply made.  The cast have a great time with the outrageous things they do with cameos from Lady Ga Ga and Gibson highly amusing.

 

‘Machete Kills’ is so ludicrous as to defy belief.  It’s hard to dis-like and more than earns its place amongst others in the genre.  It appears a third ‘Machete’ outing is in the works and hopefully it will be just as entertaining as this silly romp.

 

Rating out of 10:  7