Film Review: The Accountant (2016)

Ben Affleck Anna Kendrick The Accountant

Ben Affleck stars as a beefcake, autistic accountant who specializes in closing the books and shooting people dead in the face… because… Hollywood, that’s why. 

The Accountant Movie PosterShould I see it?
Yes, if you have patience and low expectations.

Director: Gavin O’Connor

Writer: Bill Dubuque

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

Rated R for violence and language

Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is an autistic accountant who serves the international criminal class.  While working a freelance forensic accounting gig, he uncovers massive financial hijinks.  This, of course, leads to accusations, chases and people shooting other people in the face.  No worry, Christian isn’t just an autistic accountant, he is also an expertly trained assassin/sniper.

You read that last sentence correctly.

If that seems stupid to you, this is because it is indeed stupid, deeply stupid.  Director Gavin O’Connor manages to slide this silliness past the audience by framing the autism much in the same way Ron Howard sold paranoid schizophrenia in A Beautiful Mind.  The disability is presented very intently as an ultimate good for the hero that propels him to great things.  Unlike A Beautiful Mind, the negative impacts of the disability never come to haunt Christian.  Yes, he is isolated and needs order, but there is no consequence when these tenets of his life are violated numerous times.

Ben Affleck The AccountantGiven this is a movie, selling the idea of an autistic becoming a world-class accountant isn’t a tall order.  Trained killer?  That takes some doing. Christian and his brother are raised in ancient Spartan conditions by their psychotic father.   Christian’s father refuses to allow Christian to give into his disability, believing that it will make him weak.  Instead, he forces his son to be confronted with the constant stimuli that normally would increase his autism.  This all reeks of an origin story for a superhero rather than a humble accountant.  By the time the final acts rolls around, it is clear that indeed you may as well be watching a superhero film.

Ultimately, there is little difference between this film and Affleck’s first superhero film Daredevil, about a blind lawyer/superhero/trained assassin.  Both heroes overcome and control their disabilities while sporting inhuman fighting abilities and battling daddy issues.  The largest difference is that The Accountant wants you to take it seriously.  Unfortunately, by the time Christian single-handedly takes out nearly a dozen, presumably former special forces, bodyguards, seriousness has flown the coop.

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Today’s Two Minutes Hate

A bunch of actors singing I Will Survive because Donald J Trump is about to inaugurated as POTUS. I’m certain you will be just fine holed up in your mansion with your millions and assistants.

A few years ago, this would have been almost cute. Now, it is obnoxious. It still hasn’t sunk into these people’s heads that as a whole, they’re not that special anymore. They’re little more than well-spoken whores who can do circus tricks.

Speaking on behalf of flyover country: Entertainers, please understand, we’ve heard what you have to say about us, we’ve seen how you look down on us so unless you’re acting, dancing, singing or writing…

WE DON’T CARE WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY.

PS: Emma, it’s called conditioner, look into it.

Film Review: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1990)

Gary Oldman Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

This film does a good job of proving that some great stage plays are on the stage for a reason.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern PosterShould I see it?
If it is your kind of thing, yes.

Director/Writer: Tom Stoppard

Starring: Gary Oldman, Tim Roth, Richard Dreyfuss and Iain Glen

Rated PG for nudity

Be warned: I have an affection for this film that clouds my opinion.  It was released when I was discovering the original play as a young theater student and writer.  In other words, I have a personal history with the play and film and it clouds my judgment.  I will do my best to keep my opinion level.

Tom Stoppard’s film adaptation of his classic stage play is a mixed affair.  The genuine humor and clever dialog are fun and the staging is impressive.  In turn, the pacing is consistently off and leads to an offputting, distant tone.

One of the biggest drawbacks for the audience is if you are not familiar with Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The uninitiated won’t be completely lost, but they may not get many of the references.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead HangngRosencrantz and Guildenstern are minor characters in Hamlet.  They are childhood friends of the prince and are sent with Hamlet to England.  The duo is charged to deliver a sealed note they have been directed to give to the King upon their arrival.  The note demands the King executes Hamlet upon opening.  During the trip, Hamlet switches the note with one that tells the King to kill the pair instead.  For over four hundred years, these hapless souls have been getting killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Stoppard’s version of the story places these minor characters in the spotlight and shoves Hamlet to the bottom of the cast list.  In the film, the pair are symbols of existential doom who ponder on the meaning of life, the order of the universe and the use of art.  After that last sentence, it should go without saying, this is a rather talky film.

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Film Review: The Book of Eli (2010)

The Book of Eli Denzel Washington

It’s like opening a well-wrapped present only to discover it’s socks or a gift card to Olive Garden, this fails to meet its early promises.

book_of_eli_ver2Should I see it?
Sure.  But keep your expectations in check.

Director: The Hughes Brothers

Writer: Gary Whitta

Starring:  Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Tom Waits and Michael Gambon

Rated R for violence and language

Eli (Denzel Washington) is a lone drifter traveling through the barren, waterless concrete dustbowl of post-war America on an apparent mission from God. Along with his custom-made machete and Oakley sunglasses, he carries the only remaining Bible in the whole world.  Which is fitting since, from the looks of the cast, he is also the only remaining black man in America as well.

Eli arrives at an isolated town run by the small time despot Carnegie (Gary Oldman). Carnegie has been sending his biker bandits on missions to collect books from across the surrounding wasteland. Carnegie is a budding fascist and understands that if he can find a copy of the Bible, the Word of God, he will have the key to gaining tighter control on the minds and souls of the population, thus affording him a path to greater glory.

Eli strolls into town. His Bible is found out and he refuses to hand it over.  Hollywood violence ensues in short order.

This is a solid premise and the story’s central conflict is well supported by a compelling protagonist and antagonist (Eli and Carnegie, respectfully). There is no reason why this shouldn’t be a fun, notable film. Remarkably, even with an engaging conflict and a (mostly) talented cast, this film ends up missing the mark.

There is an old adage for police that you don’t pull out your gun unless you’re going to use it. The same can be said for faith in film. If you broach the sensitive subject of religion you had better be willing to a have a conclusion one way or the other. Any story that pulls in religious imagery or text and then balks at remaining firm through to the end will ring hollow – just like this film does. I discuss this further in the Worldview section of this review below.

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Film Review: Constantine (2005)

Constantine Keanu Reeves

This film goes over as well as jalapeño dip at a burn center.  Keanu Reeves is to acting what Mr. Rosie O Donnell is to underwear modeling. 

Should I see it?
Only under duress.

Director: Francis Lawrence

Writers: Kevin Brodbin and Frank A. Cappello

Actors: Keanu Reeves (sorta), Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Djimon Hounsou and Tilda Swinton

Rated-R for violence and demonic imagery

Widely considered not to be the greatest actor of his generation, Keanu Reeves is to acting what Mr. Rosie O’Donnell is to underwear modeling. His ability to remain on screen for so long without emoting is striking. Sure, he will speak louder when he wants to express excitement and speak slower when he wants to represent thinking but to avoid human emotion for an entire production? It’s almost admirable. Then again, given his track record, to complain that he is stiff and poorly executes his lines is like pointing out that the ocean is moist.

I was particularly surprised that in a film about Hell, the most frightening thing is Keanu’s elocution. There were times when I had to stop the film and play it back with subtitles to understand what he was saying. Marlon Brando whispering with a mouthful of cottage cheese would have been clearer than this mush mouth.

Okay, enough kicking Keanu while he is obviously down. Let’s get to the movie.

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Today’s Two Minutes Hate

Hollywood Elitism

e worst parts of Meryl Streep’s arrogant speech at the Golden Globes is these nuggets:

“Once, when I was standing around on the set one day, whining about something — you know we were gonna work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, “Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is, and we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy.”

She tells the tale of how a Harvard grad had to tell a Yale grad how lucky they are – while surrounded by crew members who don’t have their own trailers or assistants.

This is AFTER she craps on what she sees as “low” culture (meaning the stuff ‘those flyover people enjoy’)

“So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.”

We’re privileged and should feel honored that we will save the rabble from their idiotic entertainments and enlighten them to their own human condition.

Honey, you’re just an actress. You don’t mean that much. Settle down.