The Sum of Our Fears: Ben Affleck’s Acting Career is in the Red

Another collaboration with 'The Accountant' director Gavin O'Connor comes as Batman exit rumors return.
Ben Affleck The Accountant

Another collaboration with ‘The Accountant’ director Gavin O’Connor comes as Batman exit rumors return.

Ben Affleck the Actor has always been less revered in Hollywood compared to his Writer and Director counterparts. As a screenwriter, he won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting (shared with BFF Matt Damon), and he took home the Golden Globe for Best Director for his work on the historical drama Argo, which also garnered him an Academy Award for Best Picture.

His acting career, though? That has always been more prominent yet less recognized. If you lived through the early to mid-2000s, when it seemed like Affleck was literally poisonous for movies despite always being cast in them, his eventual renaissance and reinvention as an esteemed filmmaker was pretty shocking.

Post-career revival, Affleck’s acting roles also got a little better, even if he has stood out much more as a director. Eventually, David Fincher cast him in a movie, which helped to reconfigure the actor’s image of only doing his best work for himself. Duplicitous as he is in Gone Girl, Affleck delivers a frustrating, frantic, yet believably layered performance.

But the DC Extended Universe just couldn’t wait to tank his prospects soon afterward. His performance as Batman isn’t bad, but the portrayal will forever be associated with movies (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League, Suicide Squad) that many people just don’t like.

Affleck’s recent, non-Batman related work in Gavin O’Connor‘s crime thriller The Accountant echoes everything wrong about his less satisfying films. Affleck plays a jack of all trades…of sorts. His character, a savant, is both a real accountant and an assassin. Amidst the film’s generic, questionably stereotypical portrayal of autism, the plot itself is ludicrous, asking audiences to suspend belief with every twist and “revelation.” It attempts to give its protagonist every kind of storyline possible — romcom, action, drama, you name it — but falls short in delivering anything of substance or emotional resonance. The Accountant is a bizarre origin story of a character that’s hard to care about due to its thankless script.

This is why news of its upcoming sequel, as well as Affleck and O’Connor’s other upcoming collaboration, The Has-Been, only make me wary. Deadline reports that the duo are planning to board the Brad Ingelsby-penned drama with Affleck to star and O’Connor at the helm. The Has-Been will focus on an ex-basketball star who’s lost everything important in his life and now struggles with addiction. The eponymous has-been then tries to seek personal salvation by coaching his high school’s basketball team. Deadline makes it a point to note that the team will be racially diverse.

There seems to be a potential “white savior who needs to be saved” angle about The Has-Been‘s narrative already. The fact that such a plotline has been done before doesn’t necessarily spell trouble in and of itself — Ryan Gosling’s Half Nelson is one comparable predecessor, and it happens to be a very moving film. However, Ingelsby may present a speed bump. He wrote the forgettable thriller Run All Night and the absolute slog of a drama film Out of the Furnace, which doesn’t bode well for The Has-Been‘s script at all.

Both O’Connor and Affleck are capable of delivering powerful films with a great screenplay. Look to Warrior and Gone Girl for some respective examples. Despite this, The Accountant is the prime example of what happens when the script is instead lackluster. Neither director nor leading man could save such a messy story.

News of The Has-Been comes alongside fresh reports that Affleck may once again be out of the running for Matt Reeves’s solo Batman movie. posits that The Batman will “likely” serve as a reboot for the character yet again, introducing a new actor beneath the cowl.

Of course, The Batman has fielded repeated rumors of Affleck’s involvement and non-involvement for a long time, and to take this information with a grain of salt should be protocol by now. Despite this, if Affleck eventually ditches the DCEU for a potential mini cinematic universe of his own with O’Connor, that would be interesting, to say the least. The Accountant is being turned into at least a duology, and it could potentially do well enough financially to self-sustain a little franchise. After all, while critical reception for the movie was lukewarm, audience scores have been more positive. And it grossed $155.2 million worldwide against a $44 million budget.

All in all, what do we make of Ben Affleck’s acting career now? It remains perennially untethered. Affleck sometimes makes a hit with a drama or political thriller, but his bigger ticket items, such as his foray into superhero movies, have definitely been more underwhelming. The Has-Been may not be the most fortuitous of career decisions for other reasons, though. He may be cultivating a working relationship with O’Connor, and it’s uncertain if that will pan out well.

Sheryl Oh: Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)