The Counselor: explaining plot and ending of Ridley Scott’s crime story

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This article explains the events of The Counselor, the crime-thriller movie directed by Ridley Scott, revealing crucial elements of the plot and the meanings behind them. We recommend you to read it only after watching the movie, and not before, in order to preserve the pleasure of the first vision.

There are some important messages that Ridley Scott’s The Counselor wants to send. It’s a movie about greed and sin, about everything a man can do for money. A film about betrayals, crossed borders, and points of no return: even though the plot could be a bit hard to follow, going deeper into the events and the conversations inside the movie can help you fully get the message.

The Counselor, Michael Fassbender, is a dirty-handed lawyer who plans to get into a 20-million drug deal for the first time. His partners are Reiner (Javier Bardem) and Westray (Brad Pitt). His girlfriend is Laura (Penélope Cruz), and Reiner’s girl is Malkina (Cameron Diaz). Both girls turn out to have a heavy role in the movie.

Malkina is a greedy woman who shows no feelings during the movie. She talks almost exclusively about sex and money. While hanging around close to Reiner, Malkina learns several details about the drug deal. Once she discovers that a young biker named “the Green Hornet,” who works for the drug cartel, was bailed out of jail by the counselor, she senses the possibility of turning the whole situation to her advantage. She commissions the killing of the biker, stealing the drug he was transporting. That puts the counselor in immediate trouble, as Westray explains: the cartel won’t believe in coincidences, and there is no way out for him. He suggests the counselor just run away, but he knows that he has bonds in his life. He also mentions snuff movies, a special kind of shootings where victims are filmed while they are tortured to death, saying implicitly that the cartel used to do that kind of movie.

The Counsellor | Official Trailer #1 HD | 2013

The cartel eventually gets its revenge. They try to capture Reiner, but the guys kill him by mistake. They get the guys paid by Malkina to steal the drugs, and they kidnap Laura while she tries to meet the counselor. Once Malkina finds out about the death of her men, she finds a new way to achieve her goals: she hires an escort to seduce Westray and steal his computer passwords; then Malkina has Westray killed and gets in possess of the computer, from which she gets to know where the money is. Meanwhile, the counselor loses all hopes of saving Laura when he receives a DVD from the cartel, most probably containing the snuff movie about his girlfriend.

At the end of the movie, Malkina meets her banker and tells him about the beauty of cheetahs: how elegant they are and how cruel at the same time what they do is: kill. She also talks emphatically about diamonds and how easy it is to transport and sell them everywhere. In her last speech, Malkina shows a metaphor for the whole movie, recapping what all the characters were targeting over the entire vision. There is no space for bonds or feelings in the world they have chosen for themselves, and she knows it. She’s just the only one able to admit it openly.


  1. I don’t understand hoe Westray ended up with the 20million. Didn’t the cartel get their drugs back?

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