The Accountant: John Wick done right

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Star Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Before you watch it

When I bought my ticket to watch “The Accountant” last Friday, I was paying to see an action flick. I did not get an action flick. What I saw instead was something of a psychological thriller. The movie is methodically paced, and follows multiple threads of a complicated story. It is punctuated by brief sequences of intense action. Ben Affleck does a stellar job portraying a man with some version of autism  (I am not a psychologist so I can’t explain what Affleck’s character suffers from). He is wonderfully expressionless in intense situations, and his empathy-incapable interactions with the other characters provide humorous respite (the butt of the jokes are aimed at the awkwardness of the “normal” characters who have to deal with someone who tells the truth instead of politely lying, not at Affleck’s autistic character). J.K. Simmons plays a bureaucrat with his usual deadpan perfection that has earned him a solid typecasting. Anna Kendrick does not enjoy much screen time, and really didn’t have a stand out performance, but then, her character did not really offer her any opportunities.

What you need to know

Dollar Scale(How much I would pay to see this movie if I could choose the price): $5 – Call in sick and see it at the matinee slot.

Who to take(Who I would feel comfortable watching this movie with): Dad – You could watch this with anyone in your family up to your Dad, don’t go see it with your Mom or baby Sister, there are a number of uses of the F – word and plenty of violence, no sex or nudity though.

Categorization: This is a slow paced psychological thriller, punctuated with well done action, it has good characters, a decent plot, and moderate depth.

After you watch it (spoilers)

In the title I called this “John Wick done right.” It keeps the good things about John Wick, dispenses with the frills, includes actual characters, and adds a degree of depth. John Wick was an entertaining movie, don’t get me wrong, but when it comes down to it, it was just a killing spree that began when some gangsters killed Keanu Reeves’ dog. I mean, what kind of plot is that? The characters were little better than cardboard stand-ins, waiting to be killed in Reeves’ unstoppable wrath. On the other hand, the cinematography was exciting and showed craft, and the gun handling and choreography was nothing short of stunning. I respected John Wick as a movie that portrayed a somewhat realistic use of firearms, no Desert Eagles or Barrett .50 cals making everything look silly, someone who actually knew a thing or two about guns consulted on that film.

The Accountant downplays the violence but keeps the intense choreography (there is a .50 cal, which made me roll my eyes, but hey I guess someone couldn’t help themselves). Instead of a tiring 90-100 minutes of non-stop double-taps and gore-splatter, there is buildup to- and release from- short sequences of action; which is more realistic anyway. There is also an actual plot, which is intriguing to follow, and stimulates at least a little brain activity. Another place where The Accountant outshines John Wick is the fact that it has characters who have personalities, motivations, who make intelligent decisions, and most importantly, that you actually care about. That’s all the John Wick comparison you are going to get, I only put stuff in the here to get you to read this.

The Accountant’s strongest suit is it’s characters. It makes you care. It takes its time for you to get to know each character. The standout was J.K. Simmons character, Ray King. He has a great story arc. When you first meet him you see a man who is in command, and who you expect to be cruel, by the end of the movie you find out his back story – that he was a drunk, a failure, and a fraud, but that he was also a good person who only did what he thought he had to do to survive and do the right thing by his family. You see the same thing in his understudy, Agent Medina, she has a checkered past, but she does what it takes to make it, and she protects her family. Even the movies thinnest character (that can still be called a character), the Wolff’s father, has a little depth. You can’t help but put yourself in his shoes and wonder what you would do if your son had the same mental illness. You see what he goes through, the fear he has that his son will be unable to take care of himself in a world that doesn’t care.

This movie takes a stab (pun) at thematic material as well, something I like in my action flicks. Having read the above paragraph (which you have hopefully done, if not, learn to follow the rules) you have probably surmised that family is the central theme of The Accountant. The moral ideal of the movie is that family has to come first, that you have to do whatever it takes to take care of them. King is a failure at everything except raising his sons. Medina saves her sister from a life of drug addiction by torturing and almost killing a man. The Wolff’s father goes to great pains to raise his sons to be independent and protect Christian from his shortcomings (even if it is probably in an unorthodox and ill-advised way). The take-home is very much that family is the most important thing we have, and that we have a duty to do what it takes to protect them.

What The Accountant did right was control the release of information, to use a phrase from Mr. Joss Whedon. You learned something new every step of the way, there were no stretches of boring predictability, not even towards the end. It also showed good restraint in building up to crescendos, but also in delivering action when the time came. It had themes and intellectual depth as well (not a lot, but enough).

The movie fell a little short in its plot twist, which I will not reveal simply because it wasn’t important. I was disappointed when I realized that moment was supposed to be the capstone of the movie, I just didn’t care – it wasn’t important to anything. It almost seemed like they added the twist just for the sake of having a twist. I did care about all of the rest of the plot lines, which were the saving grace of the movie, just not the main one. Another place I thought was lacking was the relationship between Ben Affleck’s character and Anna Kendrick’s character. I think this is a case of sacrificing present story to set up a sequel. Maybe the writers were trying to be realistic in the way it “ended,” but I am not going to be surprised when Affleck has to come to Kendrick’s rescue in a sequel.

On the whole this was a good movie, you should watch it, especially considering the cinema drought we are in right now.

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