There is a phrase in Hollywood. A ‘flatline’ performance.
This doesn’t mean an actor/actress is bad, but rather falls back on the emptiness of the performance. It means the acting is shallow, and very flat on an emotional level.
This idiom can also be used for Ben Affleck. Here’s a typical ‘flatline’-actor. He’s not bad and most of his movies are quite enjoyable to watch, but he has never been able to give any of his characters a true emotional depth.
So … he has to rely on other things in the movie, such as great directing, better co-stars and an overall great storyline.
For his newest movie, The accountant, Ben Affleck once again strolls around in front of the camera bearing a plastic, emotionless face as if he tries to impress us with his best Terminator-impression. Strangely enough, this lack of emotion seems to work fine as his character is a cold and calculated academic.
Unfortunately for the new Batman, this movie has more flaws than goodies.
The main story deals with an accountant (duh!) who works freelance for some of the most dangerous organisations worldwide. When hired by a state-of-the-art robotic company, he discovers a discrepancy involving millions of dollars. That’s when the dice start to roll … and bodies start to drop!
Let’s start with the good.
The accountant has a whole series of wonderful characters – played by some of the best actors working in Hollywood today – both bad guys who pose some kind of illustrious threat.
But also government people of the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division (try saying ‘that’ five times in a row!) who are trailing the footsteps of some murderous mystery guy they’re trying to bring in for questioning.
That all sounds positive, no? The set-up of The accountant is very well done. Interesting story though simple in nature. Colorful characters played by very decent actors of whom John Lithgow and Anna Kendrick are easily the best of the lot.
And now for the bad …
The real problem behind The accountant is that – with the chess board ready to be played – none of its pieces are moving in a clever, forethought way. It’s all going down in a pretty straight line.
Certain plots are cut short with no actual reason (such as Ben Affleck who’s asked to stop working for the robotic firm) and if there’s a reason, it hardly supports the storyline but rather renders it mute.
There’s also an overload of small, inconsistently told mini-stories that somehow float around like bubbles in water … but they never really seem to match. Think of it as a group of islands separated by water. Each of the islands present a mini-story of the movie.
There’s the flashback of our main character, and how he grew up fighting his special illness. There’s the story of Ben Affleck cooking books for the robotic company. There’s government agents tying loose ends together on various crime scenes. There’s the wild bunch of journalists and photographers who soak up every word spread on the ongoing investigation.
By themselves, all these mini-stories are very entertaining.
Combine them into one big movie, and it’s like trying to bridge all these islands across the water using nothing but a piece of rope. It just doesn’t connect very well!
The story on the Treasury agents, for example, is nothing more than pure filler to push the movie across the 2-hour mark. The characters serve nothing of real interest nor importance to the major plot line.
Given that one of its key actors is a well-deserved, Oscar-winning masterclass by the name of J.K. Simmons, it goes to show how much the filmmakers tried to balance the inconvenience of the storytelling-part with the brilliance of a well-chosen cast …
So what does this mean? Nothing much really …
The accountant is an okay-movie at best, which’ll quickly disappear against the large historical background of classic American moviemaking, of which there are far more impressive movies made in the drama-genre.
By itself, the movie is so-so. Take a step back, and you’ll see the first flaws. Take another step back, and those flaws will only become bigger. And bigger. And bigger …
Enjoyable? Yes, quite. Great? Naaah … not even by a long shot.
I guess it was to be expected from a movie that centers around a boring bookmaker. All he does – his private hobby notwithstanding – is write down a massive amount of numbers and deliver speeches that wouldn’t even be interesting if they were spoken by a half-naked Swedish porn star.
Did you know?
Anna Kendrick based her character on her mother, a real accountant who went over the script and explained the math to her daughter.
Give it to me short:
If you are a person who hasn’t seen too many American movies, The accountant may come across as a good movie. Which is not to say it isn’t, despite a number of flaws that weaken an already simple plot. But the problem is, The accountant isn’t very original. It’s a standard, run-down-the-mill, typical-everyday drama of which Hollywood churns out 25 such movies per year.
Ben Affleck does his usual ‘hey, look how I can act without a single human emotion!’.
Whether by choice or pure luck, his flatline performance seems to work in this movie. After all, he was cast for the part of a cold and calculated bookkeeper with an acute sense in numbers and a serious lack in social behavior. His co-stars however are far better, as we’ve come to expect over the years. Prominent names like J.K. Simmons, John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor (in a very shallow role unfortunately) are all first-class actors who brush off the screenplay and make the movie shine a little bit more.
Two thumbs up go to unknown secondary-actor Jon Bernthal who is allowed to portray his darker self onto the camera. He somehow reminds us of a younger version of Robert De Niro (mostly due to his looks). Let’s also not forget the sweet freshness of Anna Kendrick who often appears like an innocent Snow White amongst darker men.
The accountant certainly isn’t a bad movie, but it could have been a lot better. They should’ve added more character depth and story continuity … instead of crushing so many numbers in the movie.