Thursday, 17 November 2016

The Accountant; a pilot for a TV show we're never going to see

He’s an autistic accountant! He’s a sadistic assassin! Together they fight capitalism! 

No, I suppose not. But as The Accountant wrapped up with almost pathological tidiness, I was finding it hard not to imagine it as a feature length pilot for a crime show coming our way on HBO. Tragically, I’d watch the hell out of that; there’s a moment when Jon Bernthal was explaining to a shady futures trader just WHY it was wrong to short stocks and ruin pension funds, and I was thinking “We need this as a whole series of public service announcements on prime time TV.” I quite like the thought of a show which airs once a week and is all about rich scumbags getting spanked to a sound track of explanations of why a spanking is just a good start on what they really deserve. Probably not going to happen in the USA in the next couple of years, I imagine.

It’s an uneven movie. Sometimes it’s all about how hard it is to live with a developmental disorder no matter how clever it makes you. Sometimes it’s all about how you can make a bad childhood worse by adding military nutcases to the mix. And sometimes it’s just merrily sociopathic fun as Ben Affleck gets medieval on the bad guys like it isn’t even a thing. Bonus points for the bit where he tortures information out of a guy by telling him to grunt when Ben says the right name for the big bad, lets off the pressure just enough to let him grunt and says “Practice.” In moments like that, it’s almost a fun dumb Jason Statham style crowdpleaser, for all that it probably thought it was aiming much higher.

It’s just crawling with talent. I’ve got a lot of time for Ben Affleck, who’s long struck me as a guy who’s got a realistic sense of what he can do, and picks roles which work for his range. He was surprisingly good in Gone Girl, because he’s pretty convincing as someone who might be a nice guy OR a good looking asshole with a winning manner. He’s OK in this too, though I’m not sure how much of an effort it is for anyone to play emotionless badass. Far more impressive on the talent front are the likes of John Lithgow and JK Simmons, both playing old guys past their prime who turn out to be a lot more complicated than they look.

Above all, it’s incredibly densely packed. There’s nothing in this movie which isn’t going to be used more than one way. Nothing goes to waste. Nothing you see at the beginning is just left there; it will be back in play by the end. And it ought to feel contrived - it IS contrived - but it’s somehow satisfying as all the pieces fit into place. So watch carefully. It all fits together quite elegantly, just like the jigsaw puzzle that young Ben Affleck is putting together at the beginning of the movie. It’s not great cinema, but it’s nice to see something put together so well.

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