The Accountant Review: Things Just Don’t Add Up

The Accountant Review
out of 5

The premise for the new Ben Affleck film, The Accountant, is a solid one. Affleck plays an autistic/Asperger’s/OCD sufferer who grew up to be an accountant. While that may seem tame, and somewhat pedestrian, this accountant was also trained by his Army Special Forces father (Robert C. Treveiler) to be a relentless killer. Take all of that and mix it up with a cast of actors from recent comic book movies, and what you have is an uneven, sometimes fun action film that presents many different equations, but never fully solves them.

Since The Accountant is written as a film with many layers and contexts, it’s hard to summarize it without spoiling something that the film makers tried to make a swerve. Christian Wolff (Affleck) is an accountant in a small Illinois town, who does good things for his clients, like finding tax loopholes for the common man. At night, he lives his simple existence with his disability. As the Radiohead song that plays in the initial trailers say, everything is in its right place.

The Accountant Review

When the investigative arm of the Treasury Department, ran by Ray King (J.K. Simmons), tasks an analyst with a sordid past, Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), with investigating a possible terrorist moneyman, a man simply known in the intelligence world as “The Accountant,” she begins to discover that all is not what it seems. At the same time, Christian takes on a new client in the form of a robotics manufacturer, ran by Lamar Black (John Lithgow). It seems their low-level staff accountant, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), has discovered a discrepancy in the books, and a new accountant is needed to find the issue. All of this leads into a much bigger web of lies and deceit, and soon, Dana and Christian are being hunted by the mysterious Brax (Jon Bernthal), a mercenary who is known to clean up messes like this.

The Accountant Review

All of this somehow comes together in the third act as allegiances are revealed, secrets are spoiled, and many people die.

The Accountant plays out like a novel — and probably would have been better served as a form of long fiction, as the film leaves too many loose ends. The accountant, we are told, fights for good people, yet it is never addressed why he was working for the cartels and terrorists. There is no good there, nor was he working to bring them down from the inside — at least it is never revealed that he was. It’s a plot thread that is just let dangling.

The Accountant Review

The action scenes, especially when Affleck seems to go off as a relentless killing machine are fast-paced and frenetic, much like 2014’s John Wick. But Wick kept the pedal firmly engaged to the metal for the entire run time, whereas The Accountant pauses for exposition — almost too much. The film bounces around between past and present, giving the origin of Wolff (who uses many different aliases in the film, all famous mathematicians), and I’m not sure we needed to see all of these moments in young Christian’s (Seth Lee) life.

As for Affleck as the lead here, he is only merely adequate as Christian. While he has the size to play a role like this, it was hard to take him seriously as a man who kills people without remorse, and then does taxes for farmers. Getting one solid performance out of Affleck is a win, but asking him to play a character with multiple personality traits is demanding too much. This is the biggest criticism about Affleck playing Batman/Bruce Wayne in the DCEU films.

The rest of the cast, most of which also have ties to the recent comic book movie wave, does a great job. Simmons (who will play Commissioner Gordon in the upcoming Justice League films) is the stand out, and Addai-Robinson (who played Amanda Waller on The CW’s Arrow and The Flash) shows that she is ready for the big screen. Jon Bernthal (Netflix’s The Punisher) is perfectly cast as the relentless, yet highly-intelligent Brax. The Accountant is actually a better film when Bernthal is on screen.

The Accountant Review

The direction by Gavin O’Connor (Miracle) is fine, as he uses close ups and long shots better than most action film directors. Neither is overused, and both work to really bring the audience into a scene. The script by Bill Dubuque (The Judge) again tries too hard to tell some epic story that spans decades, when all the audience really wants to see is the here and now. If this were a novel, the extensive backstory and set ups would be welcome, but in an action film, the action film should be the driver, not the motivations.

The Accountant is a flawed film that has some highpoints, especially when guns are involved. The mythos of the Christian character prove to be too much, and the loose ends and unanswered questions that are abandoned for no particular reason really hurt the film as whole. This is a good example of biting off more than you can chew, and with some better focus from the film makers, The Accountant could have been the fall surprise of 2016. Instead, it’s an equation that can’t easily be solved, Asperger’s or not.

The Accountant is rated R and is in theaters now.

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