“We’re going to teach you a little about everything, so that you can lie about anything.”
Hollywood con artists are typically painted with a light tone and a glamorous sheen that is entirely absent from Sharper, a neo noir thriller set in a dark and clinical New York rather than the bright lights of Vegas. There is plenty of slick, moody cinematography (Charlotte Bruus Christensen also shot Molly’s Game) capturing these characters in cold hues that serves to reinforce a lack of chemistry or genuine emotion behind much of the melodrama. This datchment seems to be a directorial choice rather than a fault of the actors and Sharper is to be commended for forging its own path rather taking the easier derivative route, but the result is audience disengagement. Much of the winding plot is predictable, and the script commits the common sin of inserting one too many twists. For all its seriousness, beneath the surface Sharper manages to be just as soulless as some of the genre’s worst offenders.
“I like Dogs Playing Poker. Because dogs would never bet on things; so it’s incongruous. I like incongruity.”
Although it is equal parts a competent crime thriller and a character study of an isolated mathematician savant, The Accountant is essentially a disguised superhero movie that in some ways makes up for the fact that Affleck’s Batman will never see a solo outing. Christian Wolff’s “powers” are rooted in his autism and a childhood primed by his father to resist bullies. This manifests in rather more robust skills than the typical chartered professional, and a peculiar moral compass that allows him to work with some criminal enterprises in rooting out financial irregularities, whilst engaging in vigilante justice against others. The bursts of action are well-choreographed and blessedly free of jump-cuts. It is The Accountant‘s pacing as much as the violence which makes this a strictly adult affair. Although high-functioning autism has become a trope, it is handled here with some sensitivity and it would be reductive to boil Wolff’s character down to nothing more than “socially awkward Batman” (which is, arguably, just Batman). Affleck injects welcome nuance to his performance, particularly in his scenes with Anna Kendrick. However, the awkwardly preachy post-conclusion scene is… incongruous.
“So you got your choice. You can be crazy or dead.”
I went into Blow Out cold, other than knowing it was one of Quentin Tarantino’s three “desert island films” (Rio Bravo and Taxi Driver, if you’re interested) and the reason he wanted Travolta in Pulp Fiction. It makes sense, as Brian De Palma’s bleak neo-noir thriller is obsessed with the process of filmmaking, and the way that separate recordings of visuals and audio can, in concert, take on new meaning. Its story only works in the analogue era. The use of colour in darkness rivals Wong Kar Wei, along with some beautifully controlled overhead shots. Meanwhile, more emotional range is required from Travolta than most of his career, which is essential for the film’s crowning achievement – turning an opening joke into a closing gut punch.