THE ACCOUNTANT. Director Gavin O'Connor has been grinding it out now for almost two decades. He made some waves in the burgeoning '90s indie boom without ever becoming a Big Name Director. His film Warrior (2011), a fight movie with more grit and a wider emotional vocabulary than most prestige dramas, caught my attention. It deserved more acclaim than it received, at least for the towering performances of Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte. O'Connor seemed ready for major mainstream success, capable of coaxing such performances from formidable actors while balancing style and restraint behind the camera. Regardless, O'Connor keeps working (time and circumstance have thus far prevented me from seeing Jane Got a Gun, also released this year) and, with The Accountant, he may finally have a big enough hit on his C.V. to give his name some resonance.
Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) operates a vanilla accounting firm in a strip mall outside of Chicago. He helps struggling farmers avoid foreclosure, lives an unadorned, solitary, ordered life and for relaxation takes target practice at a distance of a mile with a mil-spec Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifle. He's a tough nut to crack. Tougher still is the Christian Wolff who, using a variety of assumed identities, travels the world as a forensic accountant for the one percent of the one percent, the people who don't pay taxes and aren't big on trust. It's that Wolff who has attracted the attention of legitimate domestic tech firm called Living Robotics, where a talented young accountant (Anna Kendrick) may have discovered some discrepancies in the books. Wolff, or at least one of his aliases, has also come within the purview of Director Ray King (J.K. Simmons) of the U.S. Treasury Department. King enlists/coerces Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to uncover the identity of his shadowy quarry.
Wolff's work at Living Robotics and Medina's investigation of him continue apace, and the inevitable dead bodies begin to accumulate. In flashback, we learn more about Wolff's unusual upbringing: a military intelligence father who chose not to treat his son's autism gently but to harden it in the forge of combat training, to focus and re-focus his energy and intellect.
Within this narrative is another thread, wherein Wolff is befriended by a mob accountant (Jeffery Tambor) while serving time in federal prison. He learns some valuable lessons about black money, develops perhaps his first meaningful adult friendship and is set on a life-long path of intrigue and vengeance.
There are moments in The Accountant when it feels like O'Connor may be trying to keep one too many plates spinning, but in the end he pulls it off with aplomb. The plot twists toward the end aren't exactly shocking, and feel a little unnecessary. But held against such a well-crafted, well-paced, well-acted movie, that's a minor shortcoming. The Accountant delivers on the promise of Warrior, even continuing some of its legacy of challenging family relationships and exploration of violence as expression. While it may lack some of Warrior's centeredness and narrative intensity, it demonstrates admirable control over a much larger, more complex story and production. This is a popcorn movie, sure, but executed with more care and precision than most. It's dark, stylish, compelling, touching, even funny in a few places — popcorn elevated. R. 128m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
MAX STEEL. In hindsight, it doesn't really even make sense that I saw this. But I actually thought that going into a movie with literally no prior knowledge might actually produce a pleasant surprise. And then I watched it and came back to reality.
The first indication of trouble was the Mattel logo. I haven't researched but I'm told by reasonably reliable sources that this is based on a cartoon based on a toy from some years ago that may or may not be the subject of current re-release. Regardless, it shouldn't be the subject of a major motion picture.
Max (Ben Winchell) moves back to the town of his birth with Mom (Maria Bello). Said town is also the site of the industrial accident that claimed the life of Ben's genius engineer father, Jim (Mike Doyle). Their return causes Max's body to start producing some exotic, powerful energy that can only be contained by a silicon-based lifeform named Steel (voiced by Josh Brener, who is the movie's only saving grace). Soon enough, they are being pursued by gun-toting thugs in black Suburbans and then there's a noisy climactic battle. Andy Garcia is called upon to recite terrible dialogue and do a lot of screaming. PG13. 92m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
— John J. Bennett
For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456; Richards' Goat Miniplex 630-5000.
AMERICAN HONEY. A teenage girl (Sasha Lane) hits the road with young, hard-partying crew traveling the country. With Shia LaBeouf, so you know it takes a turn. R. 163m. BROADWAY.
BOO! A MADEA HALLOWEEN. Tyler Perry is back in the wig and glasses as Madea, chaperoning teens and spoofing horror movies. PG13. 103m. BROADWAY.
DENIAL. Rachel Weisz plays historian Deborah Lipstadt in her legal battle against Holocaust denier David Irving, who sued her for libel in 1996, forcing her to prove the WWII atrocities actually occured. PG13. 103m. MINOR.
JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK. Tom Cruise clenches his jaw again as the hero from Lee Childs' series, this time in defense of an old colleague (Cobie Smulders) accused of treason. PG13. 118m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES. Zach Galifianakis and Isla Fisher play a boring couple dragged into espionage by their spy neighbors (John Hamm, Gal Gadot). PG13. 101m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL. Do you want evil spirits? Because this is how we get evil spirits. A phony séance gone wrong leads to a possessed teen. PG13. 99m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
PSYCHO. Revival of Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 thriller starring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh. R. 109m. BROADWAY.
SPIRITED AWAY. Hayao Miyazaki's animated adventure about a girl who must find her way home from a magical world of gods, monsters and witches. PG. 125m. MINOR.
THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK, THE TOURING YEARS. Found footage and interviews covering 1963 to 1966. NR. 137m. MINOR.
THE BIRTH OF A NATION. This dramatization of Nat Turner's uprising strikes too many afterschool special notes in its uneven storytelling. Director/actor Nate Parker fails to humanize his powerful subject or explore Turner's most difficult moments. R. 120m. BROADWAY.
CAFE SOCIETY. Jesse Eisenberg stands in for Woody Allen, mingling with mobsters and starlets in old Hollywood. With Kristen Stewart. R. 112m. MINOR.
DEEPWATER HORIZON. Peter Berg's taut oil rig disaster drama keeps a tight focus on the struggle of its real-life characters in a few crucial hours. PG13. 107m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. The thriller relies on the twist and leaves plot fragments hanging, but its departure from standard detective narrative is refreshing and Emily Blunt's performance carries the suspense. R. 112m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
HELL OR HIGH WATER. A pair of bank-robbing brothers (Chris Pine, Ben Foster) are pursued by a pair of Texas Rangers (Jeff Bridges, Gil Birmingham) in a fine, character-driven film about what poverty does to people. R. 102m. MINOR.
KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW? The comedian performs stand-up in a Philadelphia arena. R. 96m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Some fine performances in this enjoyable remake, particularly from Peter Sarsgaard as the villain and a monstrous Vincent D'Onofrio, as well as strong action sequences. Still, it lags in places and breaks no new ground for the genre. PG13. 133m. FORTUNA.
MASTERMINDS. Tame and toothless heist comedy punches a little low and doesn't get enough dark laughs out of stars Zach Galifianakis and Kristen Wiig. PG13. 94m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA.
MIDDLE SCHOOL: THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE. The new kid in school (Griffin Gluck) sets out to break each of its suffocating rules of conduct. R. 112m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.
MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN. Eva Green stars as headmistress in Tim Burton's adaptation of the book about children with magical powers. PG13. 127m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.
STORKS. A retail delivery bird winds up in the baby business trying to get an infant to a family. Or you could just have the talk with your kids. Voices of Jennifer Anniston and Kelsey Grammer. PG. 87m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill