Balancing The Crooks.
128 Mins. Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor & John Lithgow. Director: Gavin O'Conner.
Bank on Ben being public hero number one on the Hollywood hit list of smokin aces for many a return. The top bill is cashing in on his Affleck name and you don't even have to wait to 'Live By Night', the Johnny Depp, Dillinger gun 'Public Enemies', period gangster piece from the acting/directing double threat of the 'Gone Baby Gone', 'The Town' and the Academy acclaiming 'Argo' big-three for this to dawn. Ever since this 'Daredevil' had critical hell and the kitchen sink thrown at him after the cinematic disaster of 'Pearl Harbour' the 'Good Will Hunting', Matt Damon co-sign, career starter has gone from Bennifer's 6% on Rotten Tomatoes cooled 'Gigli' to Hadid hot. Getting behind the camera on his own performances has clearly worked. But he still stands for other directors chairs too, from the slick 'Runner, Runner' to the sick 'Gone Girl'. And of course the Dark Knight double of 'Batman v Superman-Dawn Of Justice' and the frequent cameo 'Suicide Squad' villain movie. The pair have been put through the critical meat grinder, but both were actually well done even if D.C.'s dark, Snyder sinister tones are a rarer taste to Marvel's full of fun meal ticket. Either way Batfleck's beginnings have shown we may have a Caped Crusader and lonely playboy Bruce Wayne just as good as Christian Bale's spirited performance. And after the dust and dusk settles on the 'Justice League' ensemble, Ben will go back to the directors hotseat for 'The Batman' movie which could be his most iconic turn on screen and behind it yet. But first it's time for Ben to handle someone elses books again as he is under direction once more for 'The Accountant' and all that pays off.
Movie commerce and critics seem to be at dividends once again however for Ben's latest dark by night vigilante with more humanity than your average hero. Affleck's accountant affords more than just giving you stock tips. He also stock-piles crooks for his clients like the book balancer does guns, ammo and Pollack paintings...it's not the most original way to get paid, but it paints a picture. You see here Ben Affleck is a hit-man in more ways than one, yet he's no gun for hire. He's the judge, jury and executioner who decides who should pay their debt to society and at what cost. With a stroke and tap of his keyboard just as lethal as him cocking the hammer and pulling the trigger as he controls, alts and deletes and cuts out the middle-men...literally. It would seem that Affleck's character that goes by famous mathematician aliases is functioning on a higher level. And his character here is on the Autism spectrum. But as much as that can be seen as a stereotype, there is some misguided cliches here that border on tired, or at the very least routine. The 90's great, Bruce Willis 'Mercury Rising' this is not and between eating his food off a one seperated plate order with one knife, one fork and one spoon for dessert and some bright lights and heavy metal self conditioning before bed, Ben brings a sincere sensitivity to a role he says is close to his heart which is more than just Bat brooding as he blows his curled fingers before each task. Sure this is a far cry from Dustin Hoffman's 'Rain Man' or more importantly real life, but as Affleck lets bullets spray in epic thriller set-piece escapism he shows once again, dressed in black that he's the action hero we all need and deserve. And he doesn't need a cape and a cowl to do it (although there is a pretty cool Action Comics Easter Egg for the man who dared to roll one up to Clark Kent of the Daily Planet's alter-ego). Or a utility belt full of gadgets as he arms up with enough Smif and Wessuns and fists and cuffs to show that he was 'Bourne' for this just like his Boston brother.
His investment in this picture that isn't even his own (it belongs to 'Warrior' suprise, best film of 2011 hit maker Gavin O'Conner. With the gloves off like UFC for this ultimate white knuckle knockout, with heart behind its hard head) seems chips down all in, but there is plenty more cast collateral here in a roll call of assests that reads like a good fiscal year. But between real 'Daredevils' and 'Whiplash' smart Oscar winners that are all 'Pitch Perfect', is the undeniable but underused talent here spread a little too thin on this bacon and eggs? Or are they all accountable? Academy man J.K. Simmons finds himself as a treasury agent looking to cook Affleck's books. And whilst everyone waits for him to throw a symbol at someones head, he does put the clamps on a young agent in the field (played by a standout amongst all the big-names Cynthia Addai-Robinson, taking big-screen aim from her 'Spartacus' and 'Arrow' beginnings). And decked out in a charcoal rain coat and trillby looking in Affleck's wardrobe of identical suits in a Wayne manner, the simmering Simmons gives us an early preview of his forthcoming Batman, Jim Gordon commission. Following this superhero roll call, many people (even Deathstroke himself Joe Manganeillo) have called for SNL Squirrel Girl, Anna Kendrick to play Batfleck's Robin in the same gender swapping vain as the Frank Miller 'Dark Knight Returns' classics that clearly inspired Batman's dawn 'Justice League' duel with Supes this year. Here though, more than a green glasses, red head sidekick we thought Jena Malone was going to be, this lovable interest of the heart beats to our leading mans rhythm until she pulls a Chloe Moretz 'Equalizer' disappearing act as she is kept arms length away from the violent third act. Still in a film that features so many big names and heroes that veteran legends Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow are reduced to small but still significant "and featuring" supporting roles, its walking deadshot Jon Bernthal that steals the show. Ever wanted to see a showdown between The Punisher and Batman in a vigilante battle of injustice? Going against a grafitti skull and cross-bones typecast, Bernthal sets his die as a more charismatic Castle, frankly using his own voice and style for a change instead of the gruff growls of 'Fury' his darker characters would have you believe are innately his. Suited and leather glove booted, Bernthal kills it in every scene he owns, from the car stake out to a kitchen barstool table top midnight snack from the glow of the fridge that has homaged shadows of 'The Winter Soldier'. Someone should of knocked, because this Jon knows how to break bad oh so damn good. All in all this All-Star cast makes this a stand alone hit and a satisfying, pacy thriller that really amps up the action once the accountant invades your home like the first and fifteenth. Sure some may see chapter two franchise potential in this more serious 'John Wick' like killing maker. But in a time and tide of trending sequels how about a one and done as clinical and precise as a silencer round? Time to close the account. TIM DAVID HARVEY.