“The Accountant”

Of the two Ben Affleck-helmed action flicks this year, I’ll take the non-Batman one. Still not happy between my options.

“The Accountant”stars Affleck as Christian, an accountant with a high-functioning form of autism. While he appears to be an average accountant, he moonlights as an assassin for criminal organizations. This is why the corrupt robotics company CEO (John Lithgow) should regret crossing him.

“The Accountant” is directed by the underrated Gavin O’Connor (“Warrior,” “Miracle”), and he’s a talented filmmaker. He’s a rare genre director, who makes unconventional action movies that are more about drama than the action sequences. The action scenes are spectacular in “The Accountant,” but they don’t top Affleck’s nuanced performance.

Affleck is quiet, expressive, and tragic as Christian. We get a sense of pain in his eyes whenever he’s alone. The backstory behind his character is far fetched, but still intriguing enough. The entire film has a problem between staying gripping and ridiculous.

The psychological study of Christian is the film’s selling point, but we spend more than half the movie focused on his cliched relationship with another accountant (Anna Kendrick). We also have JK Simmons as a seasoned treasury agent from Christian’s past, but all of his scenes are just exposition with no resolution.

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!

I admired the unconventional style of “The Accountant” between its twist-filled story, dramatic pacing combined with quick bursts of violence, and its puzzle-like cinematography. But the sloppy final act ruined my liking.

The last twenty minutes is where “The Accountant” completely falls apart. Simmons is introduced as a potential antagonist, but in the end, he’s a redeemed secondary protagonist without development. There’s a predictable twist behind a rival assassin (a wonderfully over-the-top Jon Bernthal) that made the climax anti-climactic. Lastly, the final twist in the end was ludicrous.

If there’s a sequel to “The Accountant,” I’ll see it for clarification. For now, we’re stuck with a miss.

Grade: C+

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“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”

After thirty minutes into “Batman v Superman”, I caught the first big red flag – there isn’t a consistent plot!

It takes place eighteen months after “Man of Steel” and Superman (Henry Cavill) is the most polarizing figure in the world. Some look at him as a god while others like Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) view him as a danger to the world. This leads to an epic (well, semi-epic) showdown between our heroes.

So, I died down my expectations after the reviews were less positive than the mediocre “Man of Steel”. “Batman v Superman” is a well-acted, action-packed spectacle (so, slight improvement over “MoS”), but with shamefully sloppy writing.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

We get a redundant introduction with the seven-hundredth depiction of Bruce witnessing his parents’ murders, but then a surprisingly redeeming scene of the climactic fight in “Man of Steel” from Bruce’s perspective. He’s our primary protagonist while Superman is our secondary. Unfortunately, neither are well-developed enough for us to be invested in their story.

There’s a point in the film where Superman is called in front of congress and watches everyone in the court room die in a terrorist attack while he can’t do anything, and then blamed by the media for their deaths. It’s a dark and effective moment, but what about Batman? Through dialogue, we learn Batman has been around for twenty years (makes sense since this is loosely based on the great “Dark Knight Returns” graphic novel).

But somehow, the media is neither praising or criticizing the bat for blowing up cars and shooting dozens of people in fights (yeah, Batman’s an 80’s action movie type in this one); he’s been doing this crap for twenty years, but the media doesn’t care? Most of Batman/Bruce Wayne’s development is done through shared scenes with his trusted butler, Alfred (a terrific Jeremy Irons) who’s always there to give Wayne wise advice.

Kent has subplots that go nowhere, including a dull romance with Lois Lane (Amy Adams); their highlight is a sensual, albeit pointless bath tub scene that makes Kent look like a horny jackass than a loving boyfriend. She’s otherwise just the damsel in distress for him to save. When that doesn’t happen, he butts heads with his editor Perry (Laurence Fishburne) over writing an article on Batman and it goes nowhere.

There’s surprisingly a lot of dream sequences that are supposed to push both heroes’ motives forward and heighten emotions, but they’re instead annoying and unnecessary. The worst being a great apocalyptic fight that leads to a confusing message from a mysterious time traveler in Bruce’s dream, and again – IT GOES NOWHERE!

You know the TV spots of the climactic fight between our protagonists? That’s pretty much the whole fight, which is roughly five of the film’s last thirty minutes. It’s still pretty badass and followed by one insane and epic fight, pitting them alongside Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) against a menacing creature called Doomsday.

So, yeah, the writing in “Batman v. Superman” is extremely hit and miss, but the editor digs the hole deeper for Zack Snyder. Some sequences are too long and others are too damn short! The film’s strongest aspect is to no surprise, its cast.

Affleck knocks it out of the park as Bruce Wayne/Batman. He was a controversial choice in 2013, but he proves himself worthy of wearing the cape and cowl, being our most vicious and brooding Batman to date. Cavill has more emotion and charisma as Superman in his second time around. Gadot is the perfect casting choice as Wonder Woman and brought the most excitement and praise out of my audience.

The only cast member I was very disappointed in was Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. He’s introduced as a god-hating, jolly rancher-eating hipster, but then he gets increasingly reminiscent of Nicolas Cage, as the film goes on. Not sure what he was going for there!

Zack Snyder has talent, but his love for unrestrained storytelling and fetish for mayhem brings a potentially amazing movie down several notches. Maybe the Director’s Cut on Blu-Ray will be an improvement.

Grade: C-