The Accountant Crunches More Than Numbers In Surprisingly Pulpy Action Flick
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor Starring: Ben Affleck, J.K. Simmons, Anna Kendrick, Jon Berenthal, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow Running Time: 128 mins
The Accountant is a bit of an odd mixture of a movie. It sells itself as a smart, stylish, accounting based espionage thriller. Despite such lofty aspirations however, The Accountant is essentially just a big dumb action movie; the kind where characters spout cheesy one-liners to no one in particular before doing something cool. It would have been best to embrace that, but the film can’t seem to decide what kind of movie it wants to be – tongue-in-cheek action movie or serious thriller – it tries to be both, but never fully commits to or succeeds at being either. More “John Wick” than “Jason Bourne”, The Accountant still manages to provide plenty of thrills and (unintentional) laughs along the way.
The accountant in question is Christian Wolff, played by Ben Affleck. As we learn from the first of many flashbacks throughout the movie, Christian is an introverted and compulsive mathematical savant, who also happens to have picked up his fair share of intensive martial arts and combat training. As you do. Working under the cover of his own small-town accounting firm he makes his real money providing top secret actuarial services for elite clients, and occasionally beating the crap out of the ones who upset him. With Christian having covertly cooked the books for some extremely dodgy customers over the years, the Treasury Department (!), lead by J.K. Simmons’ character, are eager to track down and uncover the identity of this mysterious vigilante accountant.
When Christian is hired by a state of the art robotics company to investigate a discrepancy in their figures, he and a junior accountant (Anna Kendrick) uncover more than they should have, and things go from bad to worse. With the Treasury Department and a gang of ruthless hit-men hot on their heels the bodies begin to pile as high as the films many, many, exceedingly convoluted plot-points.
Juggling no less than three or four separate storylines along with two recurring sets of flashbacks told non-linearly across multiple different time periods, the fact that director Gavin O’Connor manages to make this film work at all is quite a feat in and of itself.
When taken in the vein of the aforementioned John Wick, or films like The Transporter and it’s numerous, ridiculous sequels, The Accountant is a pretty entertaining affair. Filled with bone-crunching hand to hand combat and a generous helping of over the top gun-play, the film’s near superhuman feats and heroic vigilante antics are where it excels.
The whole thing has a very comic book feel to it, both in its plotting and its action. In fact, as the film progresses and the riveting actuarial aspects fade in to the background, The Accountant begins to feel an awful lot like a movie about a certain popular masked vigilante/caped crusader (If you’ve ever sat up wondering what it would be like if Batman were a combat-trained accountant with high functioning autism, this is the film for you). There’s more than a hint of Man Of Steel’s Clark Kent in there too, particularly in Christian’s childhood flashbacks with his father.
In any case, while the prospect of playing a stoic bad-ass may sound like the ideal role for Affleck, convincingly selling a character like this is all about the small tics and subtle expressions. Instead Affleck is just his usual straight faced, sullen self. Other than leading to some nice moments of levity during the action scenes, his lack of expression just makes an already one-note character appear even more bland and uninteresting. A running joke of Christian responding to metaphors and rhetorical questions in an overly matter-of-fact manner wears pretty thin early on – think Drax from Guardians Of The Galaxy, but significantly less effective.
The rest of the cast carry themselves well, doing what each of them does best – Anna Kendrick is adorable, J.K. Simmons is commanding, Jon Berenthal is imposing, etc. If not for the star power on display here it’s reasonable to think the whole endeavour might have gone entirely unnoticed.
As with most thrillers, there are a bunch of twists to be had. None of which are particularly shocking. Many of these twists are telegraphed well in advance and any discerning viewer will have them worked out well before the reveal. To the film’s credit is seems to know this to a certain degree and doesn’t play up the surprise element too much, or try to beat us over the head with explanations. The moments play out with more of a focus on the characters reactions. How much enjoyment you get from seeing them finally discover what you worked out hours ago is likely entirely subjective.
Fun Fact: The Accountant was featured on the 2011 Blacklist of Hollywood’s ‘best unproduced screenplays’. It would be interesting to see how that script compares to the finished product. The film is ultimately a patchwork of half-baked ideas. With the accounting aspect being dropped fairly early on in the movie, it amounts to little more than a gimmick to add a fresh spin to well worn material. The film’s themes are purely surface level and its metaphors mixed at best. A coda at the end of the film seems to be implying that autism is a super power akin to the X-Men’s genetic mutation, or something… It’s not entirely clear.
These kinds of attempts at profundity are undercut by the film’s inherently pulpy nature. The Accountant wants to have it both ways, interspersing the ridiculous and outlandish with moments that try to make us think – leaving the whole thing feeling like a bit of a mess. An enjoyably silly mess, but a mess all the same.
There are definitely worse ways to spend your time; The Accountant ultimately feels a little too disposable given the level of talent involved, but there’s plenty of mindless fun to be had in going along for the ride.
(3 / 5)