Friday, October 14, 2016

Movie Review: The Accountant

The Accountant
Directed by: Gavin O'Connor.
Written by: Bill Dubuque.
Starring: Ben Affleck (Christian Wolff), Anna Kendrick (Dana Cummings), J.K. Simmons (Ray King), Jon Bernthal (Brax), Jeffrey Tambor (Francis Silverberg), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Marybeth Medina), John Lithgow (Lamar Black), Jean Smart (Rita Blackburn), Andy Umberger (Ed Chilton), Alison Wright (Justine).
When I am not reviewing movies, my full time job is, of course, an accountant. As far a movie accountant go, I know what to expect most of the time – movie accountants are bookish nerds, unable to see life as anything but numbers that need to be broken out of their sad, pathetic little lives. When you want a boring guy in the movie, the chances are he’s either going to be an accountant, or sell insurance. So, when I saw the trailer for The Accountant – and it had Ben Affleck killing a lot of people, I knew I would have to see the movie. Ultimately, while the film isn’t particularly good, nor is it much of a mold breaker in terms of how it portrays accountants (there are two in the film – played by Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick, are both are desperately alone), it is a least a little amusing to see how the film plays with others perceptions of accountants. The action is okay as well. I’d be willing to go so far as to call the film a guilty pleasure – except, I think, it does way too far over the top in its last act, and in ways that inspire groans, not smiles.
In the film, Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff – a strip mall accountant, who clearly has trouble dealing with people, even if he is a genius. In flashbacks to his childhood, we learn that he is autistic – he has a brilliant mathematical mind, but zero social skills. His dad, who worked is PsyOps in the army, put him and his brother through vigorous training – mainly so that Christian would be able to defend himself, and lead a relatively normal life. He doesn’t though. The head of an investigatory unit in the Treasury department (JK Simmons) has seen him pop up in photos of very bad people from around the world – he knows he is their accountant – someone they bring in to “uncook” the books, and see what happened. Somehow this accountant, with a lot of secrets of powerful men, has been able to stay alive however – if anyone ends up dead, it’s the clients not him. Simmons blacks an underline, Madina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to track down this mysterious accountant. In the meantime, Christian has gotten a new job – not for gangsters, but a robotic company run by Lamar Black (John Lithgow) where he fears some money has been embezzled – this was noticed by the whip smart Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick – thankfully, not a love interest for Affleck’s character, at least not a traditional one). Then there’s also Brax (Jon Bernthal) – a financial fixer in a different way – bringing his gun along to intimidate people into doing the right thing for his clients, who we’re sure, will eventually come into play with the main action.
Writing that all down, I realize that the film had WAY more plot than I thought it did – and way more than was needed (I didn’t even mention Jeffrey Tambor’s character). The movie kind of spins off in many different directions at once – but I have to say that director Gavin O’Connor does a decent job at harnessing it all into one coherent movie. For the first two acts, he keeps all the balls of this complicated plot in the air and humming along. It isn’t really his fault when they come crashing down in the last act – the screenplay by Bill Dubuque tries too hard in the last act to try to pull the rug out from under us – but his twists are the worst kind – the ones that make zero sense when they are revealed, because it puts everything that happened in the movie up until then non-sensical (in contrast, the best twists endings, like Fight Club, The Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects, make complete sense once they are revealed).
For the talented ensemble cast, let’s be honest and call this what it is – a pay cheque movie. Affleck has to play flat and emotionless – much like in Batman vs. Superman earlier this year, but thankfully a lot less dour and whiny. He does this okay – but I do think it was a challenge for him to keep his more natural, good nature come out at times. Now that he’s an Oscar winner, this is the type of role J.K. Simmons will get more of – largely forgettable character roles, but ones that are larger than the ones he used to get – although he does a decent job of selling the longest monologue explaining things since Donald Sutherland in JFK. Perhaps its because I’ve watched a few old school Brian De Palma movies recently, but I kind of expected more from John Lithgow – I wanted to see him play a slimy psycho, but his role is largely forgettable (even if his last scene in the film is a gem – largely unrelated to him though). Jon Bernthal gets to add another meat-headed psycho, given to long monologues to his resume – the type of thing he does in every film since The Walking Dead. Poor Addai-Robinson gets to stare dumbfounded at a computer screen for most of the running time. Best of the bunch is probably Kendrick – even if she is essentially playing her Up in the Air character again, she is so charming – and so unexpected in an action movie like this, that she’s a joy to watch.
The Accountant isn’t really a bad movie – it runs over two hours, and that’s too long, but for a good 90 minutes of that, it’s an entertaining little action film – the type of film you mildly enjoy and then fall asleep to on TBS on a Sunday night. It goes off the rails at the end to be sure – and is never really as memorable as you’d want it to be. Even if this movie accountant kills more people than most – like the rest, he’s still largely forgettable.

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