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Review: ‘The Accountant’ Is More Than Just ‘Jason Bourne’ With Autism

accountant

And weirdly enough, The Accountant (starring Ben Affleck) is moderately better than the actual Jason Bourne movie that came out this year.  

From the outset, this somewhat flat-looking action thriller from Gavin O’Connor isn’t done any favors by its own marketing and conception. Because the idea seems to be positioning Affleck as some sort of CIA killing machine who happens to be an accountant for some reason and happens to have mild personality disorders. But in reality, the script is ideally more personal, even transcendent at times compared to previous attempts to recreate autism in an actor who doesn’t have it.

Affleck plays Christian Wolff, a mild-mannered CPA who cooks the books for the most dangerous criminals in the world. Frequent flashbacks show the progress Wolff has made over the years to conquer the negative effects of his high-functioning autism, while still channeling the positives. In this case, he’s driven to finish absolutely everything, no matter the puzzle or challenge, which is why he’s as capable as he is physically and mentally.

If the movie allowed itself to simply focus on just this aspect of the movie, throwing in a new challenge for Wolff as he has to uncover a mysterious accounting error for a large robotics company (and befriending wide-eyed Dana, played by Anna Kendrick, who breathes much-needed life into Affleck’s onscreen presence), then The Accountant could be something great and easy to recommend. But instead, the film opts to throw in various other storylines and pointless mysteries in order to further flesh the world out, possibly for franchising purposes. It’s essentially the wrong version of John Wick, which set up a massive world beneath the text that viewers want more of, which is why that movie is rightfully getting a sequel.

accountant

The odd thing is that The Accountant certainly puts the work in. J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson play Treasury agents in search of Wolff, but little comes of that development except to put off emotional payments for another time. There’s no fluidity, though, to how they link back to the main plot despite some interesting stakes-raising and the very fact that both actors are incredibly believable in their roles. The same goes for Jon Bernthal as the angsty, sarcastic hit man who regularly appears to add more shock value to the script by Bill Dubuque (The Judge).

To put it more simply, The Accountant is messy and disorganized, despite having a semblance of a compelling plot worth its own movie. Many of the surprises saved for the third act are predictable by the end of the first, and some mysteries end up being far less potent than what audiences will come up with themselves. At the very least, the action is graciously shot by a focused O’Connor, who employs an even style that makes viewers uncomfortable at exactly the right moments, getting them inside Wolff’s head whenever possible to allow some gleaning from his low points.

It’s just too bad the film never allows time for viewers to really understand Wolff’s actions, not just the background for them. Using flashbacks to explain his various character relationships and “powers” is great, but the evolution of Wolff as a person is never fully explored, at the expense of making him harder and harder to care about as the film jumps around to other characters. And if a movie really wants people to buy that Affleck is a math genius and an unstoppable warrior, then it needs to commit to making the case.

Grade: C+

Extra Credits:

  • Jeffrey Tambor is also in this for some reason, so don’t blink.
  • The Batman and DC Comics nods are all over this one. Simmons, of course, is set to play Commissioner Gordon. We see issues of Action Comics here and there. Wolff himself uses money and brawn to fight crime, essentially. He recites the Solomon Grundy rhyme to calm himself, which is a villain from the DC comics. You might recognize Addai-Robinson from Arrow, in which she plays Amanda Waller.
  • My favorite story from production comes from Anna Kendrick, whose mother is a real accountant and had to explain the math to her daughter after reading the script.
  • Oh, and John Lithgow is in this.

    Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. 

    Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni

 

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The Nerve of Jason Bourne’s Killing Joke

jason bourne nerve

This week on the podcast, the Now Conspiring team does a fine bit of reviewing. We fill you in on all our burning thoughts regarding  Jason BourneNerve, and Batman: The Killing Joke. And as always, we also discuss the latest entertainment and movie news worth conspiring.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK (and you’re required to answer this): What’s your pitch for a show or movie that could come after Game of Thrones, yet still taking place in the universe of the books?

Go on…The Nerve of Jason Bourne’s Killing Joke

Review: ‘Jason Bourne’ Is a Return to Formula, And Not in a Good Way

jason bourne review

Note: Before you read, it’s important to know that I’ve never been a big fan of the Bourne films. I respect them as important action movies and understand why they’ve had a profoundly positive effect on a lot of people. I’m just not one of them, and I have my reasons. That said, I’m judging this film based on someone who genuinely wants this to be the Bourne film that changes my mind and satisfies existing fans. 

Almost a decade ago, the Bourne trilogy concluded on a somewhat bittersweet note. Jason got all of his memories back, but at a cost — the realization that he volunteered to become an assassin, and he had no one to blame, really, for what had happened to him, except for him.

It’s a great way to end a very popular franchise, helmed twice by Paul Greengrass and beloved for its methodical action and set pieces, with a likable lead in Matt Damon as Bourne. Which is why Jason Bourne, the fifth film after Jeremy Renner’s non-starter role in Bourne Legacy, is a movie that doesn’t even make sense on paper, let alone execution.

Years later, Bourne has not really evolved or changed much since his self-imposed exile. In a way, he’s still a blank slate, as if he still doesn’t remember anything, as evidenced by a lack of motivation behind any of his actions early on. While there should be conflict within him, we only see a begrudging unwillingness to avoid trouble at all costs, that is, until a familiar plot takes hold that prompts Bourne into taking action once again.

jason bourne review

There’s a mystery about his past, yet again, and only Bourne can punch and dropkick his way to the truth. This plays out in a generic retread of past Bourne movies, once again directed by Greengrass, proving that new blood is badly needed to rejuvenate this franchise. Say what you want about Tony Gilroy’s Bourne Legacy, but at least that film was a heroic failure.

Yes, fans of the Bourne franchise will be happy to see their favorite tropes in this new film: frequent car chases, shaky fistfights in dark corridors, shady government officials, an “anti-Bourne” who’s after the hero, and a confident yet sensitive female who illogically forms a deep connection with Bourne, despite having any good reason to do so.

The only problem with all this is that none of it is handled as elegantly as you remember. There’s a noticeable lack of thought put into these formulaic set pieces. There should be tension in a Bourne car chase, but the five or six that take place in Jason Bourne go on for so long, you forget to care, especially when one chase in particular shows a SWAT truck flying through traffic like it’s papier-mâché.

Jason Bourne gets better as it goes along, finding its groove the more Bourne himself is shown in silence, outsmarting the CIA. But it’s still only a serviceable action movie, bogged down by the forced  and laughable topicality of Snowden, Silicon Valley, and hacker culture, along with wooden performances that consistently sound like the actors are reading from their scripts for the first time. In a way, that at least makes the dialogue somewhat consistent with what’s happening onscreen.

Grade: C

Extra Credits:

  • Remember when Matt Damon said he would only return to the franchise if Paul Greengrass directed it again?
  • I mentioned Tony Gilroy, who directed Legacy and wrote every Bourne film except this one. Yeah, it definitely shows.
  • Speaking of Bourne Legacy, Aaron Cross (Renner’s character) is still getting a sequel in 2018. So…there’s that.
  • I really wish they had gone ahead and called this The Bourne: Betrayal, as planned.
  • Alicia Vikander just can’t seem to catch a break with these spy movies. Last year’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and now this.

    I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

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