The Accountant

The Accountant is a 2016 American action thriller film directed by Gavin O’Connor and written by Bill Dubduque. The film stars Ben Affleck, Jon Bernthal, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, J.K. Simmons, and Anna Kendrick. Affleck stars as the autistic son of a U.S. Army Psychological Operations officer. He was of the belief that his autistic son should learn to live in the harshness of the world and overcome it, rather than adapt the world to him. To that effect, the Colonel raises his son and has him train with a number of combat specialists. He essentially becomes a living weapon. He grows up and becomes a forensic accountant for a number of very dangerous criminal organizations, currently operating under the alias Christian Wolff.

Though coming under some controversy for supposedly exploiting autism, as someone very well-versed on the subject, I did not see it that way at all. No, having autism in no way makes you a super-assassin, but it is an entertaining idea, and the film in no way belittles people with autism, nor does it patronize them. The behavioral and neurological factors of autism are rather well portrayed by Affleck. It is very respectful of the condition in that aspect. There’s also some exploration of sensory overload, an aspect of autism I do not feel gets as much love as it should. Yes, autism is used in The Accountant as (half) of an explanation as to why Wolff is an effective killing machine, but I don’t have a problem with that, and don’t see why people do. Autism is portrayed rather accurately in The Accountant. Christian Wolff is never pitied and treated as an unstoppable force of sheer and abject violence and terror, just like any other highly-trained, cold, calculating assassin, as well he should be.

Boasting a rather ridiculous and unrealistic premise, The Accountant is nevertheless a solid film.The film features a very good and, as I mentioned, mostly accurate performance from Ben Affleck. The fight choreography is very well-done, using pencak silat, the martial art used in The Raid, and the shootouts are excellent, on par with John Wick, even. There is a farmhouse shootout that serves as the first major action piece of the movie; it is extremely entertaining. The Accountant, in fact, seems to draw from John Wick in several aspects. John Wick is a smarter-than-it-seems action thriller that purposefully leaves some questions about the plot unanswered, and gives an extremely limited backstory on the main character himself in order to  preserve his legend and mystique, making John Wick as a character seem a lot more interesting. The Accountant does this effectively. There really isn’t a lot we know about “Wolff,” which isn’t even his real name. His legend is very effective. Another benefit of leaving some things to the imagination is avoiding too much exposition. Some modern action movies make the mistake of thinking the “movie (plot)” part is more important than the “action” part, overburdening the audience with needless and ultimately annoying exposition that gets in the way of what the audience came to see. The Accountant does this well, to an extent, although there are some very crucial plot elements that are not explained in any detail and require explanation in order to make sense, leaving the audience confused at some places. There’s a difference between leaving things unsaid in a film, and leaving plot holes. The Accountant tends to stray too far in one direction, and really drags down what would’ve been a great film, instead ending up just a pretty good one. The film features a subplot of Treasury agents on Wolff’s trail, but they never even come close. Although it ends up being a rather sizeable chunk of the film, I wonder why they are even in there.

Anna Kendrick’s performance leaves much to be desired. Though my slight celebrity crush on her prohibits me from calling her absolutely terrible, they would have been better served here casting another actress who doesn’t look and dress like a college freshman, as her character is an accountant for a robotics firm.

One thing I can say for certain is I need more Bernthal in my life. If you are one of the poor, unlucky souls yet to feel the Bern (bringing it back), Jon Bernthal is best known for his performance as Shane in The Walking Dead and more recently for his role as Frank Castle/The Punisher in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a role that has rightfully netted more acclaim and notoriety than his Walking Dead role ever will. Also featured in a small role in SicarioBernthal is extremely effective at anti-hero roles, and is one of the most underutilized character actors in Hollywood, though hopefully not for long. Bernthal can flip on a dime, at first being absolutely horrifying and intimidating, and then empathetic and likeable. Proof of this can easily be found in the opening of Daredevil: Season 2 and his monologue a few episodes later.

In The Accountant, Bernthal plays a ruthless, yet unsettlingly likeable assassin who comes up against our protagonist, attempting to dispatch him in efficient fashion several times, yet failing to kill him, leading him to consider the The Accountant his equal. Bernthal’s character and performance is interesting and engaging; I can’t wait for the day he firmly establishes himself in Hollywood, as his performance, along with Affleck’s, serves to offset the damage done by a holey script.

The Accountant is an effective, yet flawed effort by Warrior director Gavin O’Connor. Though by no means perfect, it is unabashedly entertaining, utilizing a unique and suitably ridiculous premise to interesting and positive effect. It is at times confusing and unengaging, but ultimately enjoyable and fun, with several neat ideas and aspects littered throughout that add layers to what could have been cliché, boring, or worst, offensive. It isn’t the best film of the year, by any means, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy myself.

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The Raid: Redemption

The Raid: Redemption is a 2011 Indonesian action martial arts film written and directed by Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans. Evans’ preceding  film was 2009’s Merantau, which starred Iko Uwais. Evans was a student living in Indonesia when he discovered the little-known but effective and interesting form of martial arts known as pencak silat. Evans felt that pencak silat would make for a great martial arts film, and teamed up with Iko Uwais, an actor and practitioner of pencak silat, for Merantau, which received positive reviews and a sizeable amount of international recognition.

Uwais and Evans teamed up again for 2011’s The Raid, which was released in international markets as The Raid: Redemption. The film stars Iko Uwais, Donny Alamsyah, Joe Taslim, Ray Sahetaphy, Yayan Ruhian, and Pierre Gruno. Rama is a member of a special tactics team in the capital city of Jakarta, the capital and most populous city in Indonesia. The 20-man squad he is a part of is tasked with capturing Tama, a notorious drug lord operating out of a high-rise in the city slums. The mission is masterminded by a lieutenant named Waiyhu. It turns out Waiyhu is a dirty cop operating on orders of other dirty cops, the mission is unsanctioned, and they are operating without backup. The operation goes to pot, and the 20-man team is swiftly cut down to 4.5, as a officer named Bowo ends up critically wounded. What becomes a police raid becomes a raid on the police; the high-rise is a safe haven for scumbags of all kinds, and Tama offers rent-free living to anyone who helps “cut down the infestation.” The men are now in a desperate fight for their lives. It develops that his own life isn’t the only one Rama’s concerned with saving.

The Raid, both literally and metaphorically, doesn’t pull any punches. With a budget equivalent to a relatively paltry $1.1 million, The Raid is dirty, nasty, and intense. There is no flair; it doesn’t try to be more than what it is: bone-crunchingly violent and entertaining to watch. The simple, yet effective plot is set up within the 20-minute mark, leaving an hour-and-a-half for a glorious smorgasbord of forearm blocks, forearm strikes, tackles, grapples, chokeholds, armbars, bullets, guns, machetes, blood, and sound effects most likely captured by the sound guy going to town on a bag of Lay’s Potato Chips.

The choreography for this wonderful fight-fest is the most fast-paced and kinetic as you have ever seen. As I have mentioned before, I have somewhat of a weird fascination with martial arts and a good fight scene  What I may have neglected to mention was The Raid began that fascination. This movie is insane. It is balls-to-the-wall brutal and fast but still manages to be interesting and complex, in terms of choreography. This makes Mad Max or John Wick look like child’s play.

The Raid, for being a very straightforward martial arts film, also features rather decent acting and a twist or two along the way. Iko Uwais is a good actor, so are Donny Alamsayah and Joe Taslim. Rama and Andi are empathetic enough to be effective characters, and the Sarge is a boss. To put it in the most simple of terms, The Raid offers a mind-blowing amount of insane and well-put-together action, with passable acting and a setting, story, and script that is nothing more than an excuse for the insanity. I don’t see why that’s a problem; with action and stunts as nuts as the ones you see in this movie, it shouldn’t be. Nevertheless, the late, grate Roger Ebert panned the film, giving it a scathing indictment and 1 out of 4 stars. I feel as though Ebert heard that The Raid was awesome but had no idea why. Don’t watch The Raid expecting anything thought-provoking, watch it expecting to see a lot of people end up with every bone in their body destroyed, a gelatinous, writhing shell of what used to be a scumbag drug dealer.

In America, The Raid came under fire for ripping off the plot of the cult action film Dredd, a film which came out earlier that same year. Nothing came of this, though, and only served to bolster the film’s notoriety in the U.S. Indeed, its violent antics and controversy with Dredd have made The Raid a cult classic film for action junkies like myself, which made it quite successful in overseas markets. The Raid more than quadrupled its budget due to all of this, which has led to a sequel, released in 2014, with a third installment planned in 2018. An American remake is also in the early stages of production, and as far as I know, Frank Grillo, known as Crossbones in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the protagonist of the latter two films in The Purge franchise, is set to lead.

The Raid is an awesome action movie that doesn’t bring much else to the table, mainly because it doesn’t need to in any way, shape, or form. You know what you’re getting into. If you want action, this is your film. If you want thought or plot, go find something else.