I don’t get it. First it was The Girl on the Train and now it’s this film. Maybe I’m just getting less cynical as I get older but I felt like the critics were unnecessarily harsh on both films. While neither have been trashed, they both have a pretty mediocre Rotten Tomatoes approval rating. However, when the score lands around the middle ground, I tend to go 50/50 with either liking it or hating it. This one was a big surprise because of the rating but then I loved the trailer and was really intrigued by the whole idea behind the plot. I was excited to see Affleck play a very different type of character and was ready for a more mature version of Chucky (I’ll let you figure out what film that is) to take on a role like this that was more complex and nuanced than many of his previous parts.
The film tells the story of an autistic man named Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck). As he grows up and is taught to defend himself by his father and along with his brother, he soon grows up to be an accountant for many shady enterprises and clients in order to make a steady income. When he is hired for a job involving a state-of-the-art company known as Living Robotics, he soon falls into a web of conspiracy and blackmail as he goes on the run with a female employee (Anna Kendrick) who originally spotted the inconsistency in the company’s paperwork.
One thing that sticks out in this movie is Ben Affleck’s performance. Much like how Emily Blunt went outside her comfort zone in the aforementioned The Girl on the Train, I’ve also never quite seen Affleck pull off a role like this. A lot of people have been referring to him as “Rain Man with a gun” but it’s so much more than that. Affleck takes on a simple quietness with his performance as this young autistic character and does a very respectable job. Honestly, I can see him being a sort of superhero to the autistic community. He is a very positive role model and plays the role in a way in which it is not over-the-top and clearly he did a lot of research before taking it on. Major props to Affleck. The supporting cast is quite good too as Anna Kendrick charms her way into our hearts once again here. She can do these cute and perky girl-next-door roles in her sleep but it never feels like she’s half-assing it out there. Jon Bernthal (who seems to be having the best career out of any current or former Walking Dead castmembers) is suitably charismatic and creepy with the way he portrays the role of the mysterious assassin. The way in which Bernthal convincingly threatens a potential threat to one of his clients is one of the most tense scenes in the film based solely on his acting talent. There are lots of other rock-solid appearances from actors like J.K. Simmons, Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow as well.
My best guess is that the criticism for this film mostly comes from the script and I can see why people might not have been a big fan of the plot twists and turns that come in the story or even some of the longer scenes including an admittedly overlong stretch of time where Simmons explains the history between him and Affleck’s mysterious accountant character to his young analyst. The plot twists and turns though were actually very well-done and I honestly thought that they all made perfect logical sense. I’m not going to go in-depth on any of them because I don’t want to ruin anything for people planning to see the film but suffice to say, you will not be disappointed. There are a few stretches of dialogue that are a bit expositional but most of the time it serves the story quite well and allows for character growth as well as the adorable (but not necessarily romantic) chemistry that grows between Affleck and Kendrick.
If you enjoy action, you will get a healthy dose of that as well. Affleck has done plenty of films with high-octane action scenes and even though this film falls more under the umbrella of drama and thriller, it does still contain a few impressive action set pieces. The big finale is especially good full of white-knuckle thrills and wall-to-wall action. Like I said though, the movie is not all about the action and most of the positive aspects of the film are as a result of the acting and the writing. It has real potential to be a franchise as well as Affleck provides a different kind of hero that the mentally handicapped community has not really had to this large extent. It’s worth checking out!
* (Brutal; the worst rating)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)