“Goliath” Season 4 (Finale)–Addiction

In this final season of Goliath   we again see the still down-and-out “lemon lawyer” Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton) take on a giant corporation.  This time it is an opioid mega-corporation, Zax Pharmaceuticals, and its billionaire CEO, George Zax (J.K. Simmons).   In a fierce and lurid courtroom battle in San Francisco  (eerily conjuring the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma in recent headlines), will McBride prevail?

Season 4 opens with a flashback to Billy McBride, narrowly escaping death by gunshot.  Billy’s mental condition and circumstances propel him into flights of fantasy, perhaps post-traumatic stress disorder, mixed into a cocktail of alcohol. 

McBride is temporarily residing in Chinatown, his apartment paid for by Margolis & True, the white-shoe law firm representing Zax Pharma.  His former partner Patty (Nina Arianda), now employed by Margolis & True,  has offered him a gig not only as a loyal colleague, but also because McBride is the best litigator she knows, even if other colleagues don’t agree.

Other characters add to the escalating courtroom battle.  The estranged brother, Frank Zax (Bruce Dern), and a daughter whom his brother finagled into adopting.  As dueling, antagonistic brothers intent on destroying each other, Frank and George Zax turn sibling friction into fiery and merciless conflict.

Goliath Season 4 pulls back the curtain on the opioid crisis that is relevant to the present day. It hones in on its displeasure at the lives lost for obscene corporate profit.

This is the best season since Season 1 (see my October 23, 2016 review).  Goliath always has had noirish overtones of Alfred Hitchcock, but in Season 4 some (not so subtle) scenes pay  homage to Rear Window.  It’s not always easy to tell how much is real and what’s imagined (which usually, but not always, is telegraphed by filming in black-and-white flashbacks and fever-dream images).   Nonetheless, this finale is riveting and compulsive watching.  Some overwrought scenes drag the momentum from time to time.  There is even a dance-and-song routine by J.K. Simmons, but he is so much fun to watch at his villainous best! Binge-view it to keep track of characters and threads in the plot!

Availability: Amazon Prime

“The Accountant” – A Hidden Asset

[I am now reviewing movies for BlogCritics.org and the following review first appeared on their site March 17. ]

 

The-Accountant-movie

The Accountant is a 2016 American action thriller that deserves more recognition than it has received to date. Chris Wolff (Ben Affleck), whose brilliance as a forensic accountant is demanded by organized crime syndicates around the globe, is a high functioning Asperger math savant. Chris’s backstory equips him with the martial arts necessary to defend himself against the most violent of his clients.

His clients communicate via cell phone to an anonymous woman whose identity is not known until the very last five minutes of the film. In pursuit of Chris are Ray King (the always satisfying J.K. Simmons), a director in the Treasury Department, and Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), who is bullied into cooperation.

With the Treasury Department’s financial crime division in hot pursuit, Chris is hired by a robotics company to analyze a multi-million dollar accounting discrepancy. Dana (Anna Kendrick), a low-ranking accountant, is asked to support Chris as he disentangles the complicated income statements. Together they realize that the company has a very troublesome past of malfeasance. Soon the body count rises.

The script is so well crafted and intricate, with major subplots involving what seems like minor characters at first, that the viewer will not know what’s coming. A complicated structure that requires patience and a high level of focus, The Accountant will not be for those whose minds wander as in so many action thrillers. But this brainy film is certainly not your typical adrenaline-pumping action flick. The writers combine the autistic/accounting sides of the savant with the backstory of intense family dysfunction. The tragic family dynamics switch to humor, at moments, for relief.

An intricately structured thriller boasting multiple plot twists and heart-pounding surprise turns, some viewers may think the narrative requires too much concentration. An entertaining, high calibre action drama makes The Accountant a largely satisfying crowd-pleaser for those who like something else besides sniper attacks and car chases. Four out off five stars!

“Whiplash”—Marching to the Beat of a Different Drum

Whiplash
Whiplash

For lovers of jazz music and of stories dealing with young artists trying to find their way, this 2014 movie has it all.

A young drummer, Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is accepted into Shaffer Conservatory, one of the best music schools in the country and yearns for the approval of Terence Fletcher, the school’s intimidating and legendary master (J. K. Simmons, in his best role since “Juno”). Fletcher is only interested in the best of the best students and hopes to find the next Charlie Parker, only to be continually disappointed.  

The sacrifices Andrew makes in order to please Fletcher exact a hefty price on his personal life.   He begins to practice maniacally in order to achieve his dream, not unlike the Hans Christian Anderson tale of the little dancer, in the “Red Shoes”. Fletcher turns Shaffer Conservatory into a hellish musical boot camp, cutthroat and ruthless, with resentment and bitter rivalries. One student is pitted against another as if in a percussionist’s coliseum.

J. K. Simmons/Miles Teller
J. K. Simmons/Miles Teller

 

The ferocious lead performances (Teller and Simmons) in “Whiplash” impute a mesmerizing power on the viewer, who witnesses a psychological struggle between teacher and pupil that is both unsettling and riveting. The parameters of artistic sacrifice in the face of a tyrannical teacher are questioned but not answered. Psychologically disturbing and thrilling all at once, we see a young prodigy become enslaved to his own ambition. These performances are not to be missed.