By: Kevin Jordan
Two is the only number that matters.
On the Movie Fixers podcast, we have started a list of unforgivable sins, i.e. things that should never happen in movies. One of those things is not double-tapping an enemy. If you’ve seen a horror movie at any time in your life, you know what I’m talking about – the hero takes out the bad guy, but doesn’t hit/shoot/crush him again to ensure he is dead. Inevitably, that bad guy “comes back from the dead” to wreak more havoc. This does not happen in The Accountant. Ben Affleck (playing the title character), double-taps, and sometimes even triple-taps every bad guy in his wake. The best part is that my friend and I weren’t the only ones in the theater to cheer for this. I heard at least two other people literally say “double-tap” and I’m I could feel them fist bump from several seats away. It was glorious.
(SPOILERS coming, but they will be mild and few. You can count them if you like.)
But that’s not the only reason I liked The Accountant. It’s a pretty good action flick that makes the most boring profession on the planet (sorry, Dad) interesting. Affleck plays Chris Wolff, an autistic accountant who specializes in finding money. You read that right – autistic – and this isn’t solely to give Chris a quirk/superpower. It’s used to great effect to develop his character, comes into play with regards to at least one reveal, and makes you realize they are paralleling Leon in Leon: The Professional. Most of Chris’ clients are drug lords or weapons dealers or other uncouth characters, but he decides to take on a seemingly straight-laced job working for a robotics company helmed by Lamar Black (John Lithgow). One of their employees, Dana (Anna Kendrick), discovered some missing money during her accounting and Lamar brings Chris in to find it. After a night of going through the books, Chris has confirmed that money is indeed missing, but is shut down by the company before he can figure out where it went. And if anyone is going to be bothered by an unfinished money puzzle, it’s an autistic accountant.
The boring part.
The movie kicks into action gear as the people who know about the missing money start getting gunned down by Brax (Jon Bernthal) and some other hired mercenaries. I don’t need to tell you what happens for the rest of the movie because it should be fairly obvious. Action, action, and more action, completed with the missing pieces to the money puzzle. We also get treated with how an autistic accountant is also an insanely dangerous assassin and it’s very believable. I know – I was surprised as well.
As much fun as all of the action and mystery was, the movie has a secondary plot involving US Treasury agents Ray King (J.K. Simmons) and Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) trying to identify and track down the accountant (it’s more fun to call him that than Chris, which is why they refer to him like that so often in the movie). Unfortunately, this plotline is as pointless as the cops in Fargo and No Country for Old Men – the cops never really get close to catching their quarry. To be fair, in all these cases they are used to further develop the main characters or villains, but they end up never really mattering to the plot. They are basically us (the audience), but getting paid better. Simmons owns every scene he is in (because of course he does, the man kills it in insurance commercials), so the scenes are enjoyable. The problem is they bring the movie to a standstill and never advance the plot. I think the tension of the movie could have been ratcheted up had the agents actually gotten into it once or twice with the accountant. It could have been worse though, as Terminator: Genisys so aptly proved.
The not-boring part.
Before I go, I want to leave you with an observation and lack thereof. There’s a clever little reveal at the very end of the flick that I didn’t pick up on. My friend was surprised that I missed it and my reason was that because the conflict was over and the movie had been resolved, I had stopped thinking about the movie. It’s not a great reason, but there it is. However, he was still a little incredulous so I pointed out a clever little bit of filmmaking that he missed – early on when Chris first goes to the robotics company’s building, he is standing in front of a picture of a human hand touching fingers with a robotic hand. Chris is placed in front of the robot hand and Lamar is placed in front of the human hand. See? Clever. My point is that this movie definitely had some thought put into it and that’s why I think it was very good. That and the double-taps.
Rating: Ask for one dollar back for the Treasury agent’s scenes. They shouldn’t have been the most boring thing in a movie about an accountant.
By: Kevin Jordan
Lies, damn lies, and previews.
When it comes to movie previews (or trailers, if you prefer), you always have to ask yourself how much of the movie you want spoiled and how much you want your expectations swayed prior to watching previews. It’s been awhile since I last gave this advice, so here it is again – if you want to get a peek at a movie, but not have the preview ruin your expectations or spoil the movie, watch the first theatrical preview and avoid all other previews like the plague. The first theatrical preview always comes out before the movie has finished post-production editing, so they are the least likely to do something stupid like show you the ending of the movie. Subsequent previews are almost always made after the film is in the can and usually reveal far too much about the film as part of the marketing push that occurs in the 2-4 weeks prior to the film’s release. These later previews are the ones that tend to give away the best jokes of comedies, show the misunderstanding that breaks up the couple in a rom-com, or reveal how the thieves steal the gold in The Italian Job.
The other thing previews tend to do is deceive you. Sometimes they’ll feature scenes that aren’t actually in the movie, and other times they’ll make the movie seem like something else entirely. Into the Woods does the latter and does it by neglecting to mention a tiny detail about the movie that is kind of important – it’s a freaking musical. Unless you are a fan of the stage, there is no way you can know that detail unless someone like me tells you about it. And don’t think Disney just made a mistake – they intentionally kept the previews from revealing that because it would murder their box office receipts by turning off nearly every male between the ages of six and dead. Dishonest shenanigans like that are part of the reason why Sony got hacked (and for the last time, it wasn’t the North Koreans).
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Into the Woods; it just surprised me to find out it was a musical. I was looking forward to a fun mash-up of fairytales that would help me forget ABC’s incredibly disappointing Once Upon a Time (also owned by Disney). When the movie immediately kicks off with a song, my first reaction was “we’re going to find out what Emily Blunt and Chris Pine sound like in the shower? Nice.” Of course, most of us would rather see what those two ridiculously beautiful people look like in the shower, but I digress.
(Very mild SPOILERS ahead.)
Into the Woods is a fairytale about a couple (James Corden and Blunt as a baker and his wife, respectively) trying to lift a curse on them that prevents them from having children. In order to lift the curse, they must collect four items for the witch (Streep) who placed the curse on them. The twist to the story is that it weaves Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, and Rapunzel into the greater story, though Jack and the Beanstalk is by far the dominant of the four; the other three really just there as side stories to provide supporting characters. All of the actors are delightful, the stories are fun and amusing, and the audience was thoroughly enjoying the film. That is, until it ended halfway through and a new movie started. Yeah, you read that right.
Of course, it wasn’t actually a new movie, but it might as well have been. There is most definitely a happily ever after concluding the first half and then the movie completely switches tones, going from lighthearted and fun to dark and cynical. It’s as jolting to the viewer as finding out about the singing, but is much more confusing than the singing. After the movie concludes, it’s obvious that the intention of the film was in the spirit of a true Grimm’s fairytale, but the two halves are such polar opposites that the movie as a whole doesn’t feel like a whole. It seemed almost as if a sequel was just bolted on because neither half was long enough to be its own movie.
Before I get to the truly confounding component of the movie, I want to reiterate how fun and entertaining the first half of the movie is. The movie hops between the different stories and brings them all together seamlessly. There’s a wealth of humor and the actors, appear to be having the time of their lives, including Anna Kendrick, who is making everyone forget she was in the Twilight series. Surprisingly, Chris Pine has a very good singing voice, though one that I never would have attributed to him if I didn’t see his name listed as the performer in the credits. Unsurprisingly, Emily Blunt is amazing and, like Benedict Cumberbatch, is on my list of people who I would pay to watch read the phone book.
About that confounding component, fairy tales traditionally include a moral for the reader. Based on what you actually see and hear in Into the Woods, the moral is “be careful what you wish for,” which is plainly observed in the second half of the film. What’s confounding is that the movie ends with Meryl Streep singing the moral of the story, but it’s something else entirely – “be careful what you say because children will listen.” Huh? Nothing in this movie points to that moral, in fact, the opposite is stressed since the children in the film don’t listen to what anybody says. I have no idea where that came from and even less idea what it’s supposed to mean. Was the movie actually trying to tell us not to cuss around our kids? Or that we should lie to them? Were they trying to tell us we should act like parents from the 1950’s?
Like I said, I enjoyed the film – the first half much more than the second half – though I’m not sure I’d recommend it to young children on Christmas. Though, come to think of it, lying on Christmas is an annual tradition.
Rating: Ask for two and half dollars back. In addition to the non-moral, I confess that I lied too – and this is a lie of omission – Johnny Depp gets a short cameo that is just above cringe-worthy.