Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Accountant

1.5/4

Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor

Rated R for Strong Violence and Language Throughout

Is it too much to ask that an action movie quicken the pulse rather than threaten me with catatonia?  I realize that dark, introspective action movies are all in vogue these days, but really.  This movie is the pits.  When it's not incoherent, you'll wish it was because of how ludicrous it actually is.  There are very few moments in the way too long 2 hour running time that I could believe.

The premise, a high-functioning autistic man being a hired killer and accountant for the low lifes of the world, has promise.  But director Gavin O'Connor squanders any potential with this idea and plays it safe at every turn.  He has also cast an actor in the lead role who doesn't fit the part.

Christian Wolff (Affleck) is one of the best accountants in the business.  His autism gives him an incredible ability to focus and a dislike of leaving tasks unfinished.  But he also cooks the books for "the most dangerous people on the planet" and thus is skilled in defending himself.  One day his unnamed handler contacts him about a biotech CEO named Lamar Black (Lithgow).  He thinks that his CFO has been stealing money from the company and has hired Christian to find the truth.  Together with Dana Cummings (Kendrick), who discovered the suspicious discrepancies, he goes to work.  But things are not what they seem.  Meanwhile a Treasury agent named Marybeth Medina (Addai-Robinson) has been tasked to find out who Christian is.

The most important character in the film is Christian, and it's also the film's biggest problem.  The screenplay doesn't know what to do with him or how to portray him.  As a result, his autism is less a character trait than a plot device that's abandoned when it's not convenient for the plot (or when the screenplay is just lazy).  Ben Affleck gives it a game try, but there's no denying that he is simply not right for the part.  Off the top of my head, Ryan Gosling would have been a better choice.  Affleck has a good supporting cast, but none are given much to do.

The plot rarely makes any sense.  And when it does, it's impossible to take seriously.  Action movies generally require a suspension of disbelief to work, which is fine.  But O'Connor takes it very seriously, and that highlights the film's holes and stretches incredulity beyond the limit for something as silly as "True Lies" (a much better movie).  And the film saves the worst for last, and I mean the worst.  Not only is the big "twist" dumb, I predicted it about halfway through the movie.

It's a surprise to see that this was directed by the talented Gavin O'Connor, whose credits include the indie hit "Tumbleweeds" and "Warrior," which made my Top 10 list a few years ago.  Then again, he did direct "Pride & Glory," so I guess it isn't.

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