“Good judgment comes from experience and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”
The ingredients to establishing a Jason Statham franchise are all present: a euphemistic job title, terse dialogue, a convoluted plot of double-crossing criminals, and explosive consequences. I was hoping, then, that this remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson movie would deliver something like The Transporter. Statham excels at playing the straight man — in this case the kind of Hollywood-written hitman who studies actuarial tables for tips on undetectable murder — but The Mechanic gives him little to play off that doesn’t feel forced. Training the hotheaded son of his former mentor never makes sense for such a meticulously prepared individual, and he fails to recognise a painfully obvious double-cross because it would cut the film short by an hour. This would be forgivable were the pace of action high enough to prevent us noticing, but The Mechanic moves surprisingly slowly with little creativity on display, just smaller versions of familiar stunts.
“This is why I must trust my shamanic instincts as a thespian.”
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Nicolas Cage in possession of massive talent must be in want of a movie. Leaning into the speculation around his often-surprising career choices, Nicolas Cage plays a fictionalised version of himself, desperate for a hit as much to impress his daughter as for the money. This sets the tone of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, amusing rather than satirical, as it shifts to espionage and action involving a Mexican arms dealer and the CIA. There are two keys to its success: firstly, that Cage largely plays the role straight, though keenly aware of comedic timing and self-referential overacting; and secondly, Pedro Pascal’s awkward charm as the criminal who seems more interested in screenwriting. The most fun is had when the two actors play off one another, their characters equally anxious as they build a rapport. Although the rest of production is competent, were it not for the “Nick Cage” gimmick, this would not be a noteworthy film. Ultimately, it is a homage that will predominantly attract and entertain Cage fans (it is littered with references to his past films), and it comfortably rides the wave of goodwill from Cage’s recent strong performances.
“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.