The Accountant and Jane Got a Gun both rely heavily on their peripherals

Director Gavin O’Connor (Warrior, Pride & Glory) released two films in 2016, and out of sheer coincidence, I saw them on back-to-back days. Jane Got a Gun recently popped on Netflix, after a considerable period in development hell and two years on a shelf. The Accountant is currently finishing it’s theatrical run. Neither film is a tour-de-force, nor an interesting enough failure, to warrant a full essay each. Both fail to rise above problems in their plotting and rely far too much on flashback storytelling, but The Accountant’s plotting is wonderfully over-the-top even if it’s completely overstuffed, whereas Jane Got a Gun is far too rote.

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From it’s title, Jane Got a Gun announces itself as a feminist revisionist Western where Natalie Portman gets to deliver some frontier justice. Indeed, it starts out promisingly enough, with Jane’s husband Ham (Noah Emmerich) arriving back at the homestead full of bullets and barely alive, rambling about the Bishop gang, led by a mustachioed and otherwise weirdly indistinct Ewan McGregor,  being angry and on their way. Jane enlists the help of her ex-lover Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton), and…immediately stops having much agency in her own story. Dan takes charge, flashbacks tell us how Ham saved Jane from Bishop in the past, and Jane herself gets lost in the shuffle. It’s not a terribly exciting shuffle either, with the action heavily backloaded as both the flashback and present-day storylines reach near-simultaneous conclusions. Noah Emmerich’s Ham is really the only character who makes much of an impression (aside from a quick nasty appearance by Rodrigo Santoro), and the climax of his flashback’s arc gives us perhaps the only memorable scene of the film. There’s potential here, but it never goes to the level of camp it’s title so richly deserves (despite the aforementioned Ewan McGregor stache), and falls flat because of it.

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The camp appeal of The Accountant is clearly on display, as it essentially answers the age-old question of “What if Rain Man was a badass?” Ben Affleck stars as Christian Wolff, a high-functioning autistic man who works as an accountant for criminal organizations and also can take on five armed henchmen when the need arises. It’s not particularly PC, but it never makes Wolff the butt of the joke. It recognizes that his condition is serious, but doesn’t rely on that as his only character trait, much to the credit of the script and Affleck’s low-key performance. However, the two sides of his criminal activities never quite gel completely, and the action scenes aren’t particularly well choreographed. The movie also runs a bit too long at 130 minutes, mostly because it keeps throwing in characters and flashbacks ad nauseum. While the flashbacks provide necessary context for Wolff’s odd combination of traits, far too much time is spent with a pair of mostly disconnected treasury agents. There’s a sense that the movie was throwing whatever it could at the script, although it doesn’t usually translate to a particularly wacky presentation. However, the characters and plot are interesting enough to make the movie immensely satisfying. Helpfully, while the movie is overstuffed, it’s stuffed to the brim with distinctive character actors, from JK Simmons to Jeffrey Tambor to John Lithgow to Jean Smart, who make even the most ancillary moments watchable. The Accountant is far from great, but it’s a neat take on the type of corporate-minded action movie the dominated the 90s that at least breaks the sequel trend effectively. It’s a shame that it just doesn’t stick the landing, throwing on more and more convolution rather than providing a satisfying capper.

Jane Got a Gun (2016)
Grade: D+
Dir. Gavin O’Connor
Starring Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Noah Emmerich, and Ewan McGregor
Rotten Tomatoes (40%)

The Accountant (2016)
Grade: C+
Dir. Gavin O’Connor
Starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, Jon Bernthal, and J.K. Simmons
Rotten Tomatoes (51%)

Comments:

  • The Accountant SPOILERS: So Jon Bernthal being Wolff’s little brother grown up has to be the most obvious twist ever, right? They didn’t foreshadow it as far as I can tell, but the laws of character usage economics and the lack of alternative grown-up Affleck brothers and other inexplicability of Bernthal’s screentime confirmed it a full hour-and-a-half before the movie finally did.
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The Accountant and Jane Got a Gun both rely heavily on their peripherals

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