“The Accountant” Calculates, But With Some Error

It’s been an interesting year for actor/director Ben Affleck, who, after donning the cape and cowl earlier this year in the mega blockbuster, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, plays an autistic accountant, moonlighting as an assassin and financial consultant for foreign and domestic criminal organizations in Gavin O’Connor’s (Warrior) low-budget action mystery thriller, The Accountant. After Christian Wolff (Affleck) and another more inexperienced accountant, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), uncover a potential money laundering scheme in a robotics company, they’re both sent on the run from assassins hired by its CEO, Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow), and led by hitman, Brax (Jon Bernthal), all while being investigated by treasury department agents, King (JK Si
mmons) and Medina (Cynthia Addai Robinson)

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Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

This is a film that has every right to be generic, but the fact that autism plays a pivotal role within the larger thematic framework prevents it from being so.  It also organically incorporates aspects of family drama in its well coordinated use of flashbacks. It’s in these moments that The Accountant become another movie altogether, but in a good way, creating sympathy for a morally conflicted character with the distressing scenes of Christian undergoing brutal fight training or his mother leaving him. It’s beautiful character growth showing him actively conquering his obstacles as a youth to eventually becoming an action bad-ass racking up a fairly robust body count. Because of this, The Accountant also manages to solidly function as a shadow empowerment film for the mentally impaired.

Affleck has been repeatedly mocked for his acting career since the early 2000’s, but since 2010’s The Town, he has proven himself to the critics and audiences to be a formidable actor and as much as I loved his cinematic iteration of Batman, I think The Accountant displays his best work yet. He delivers a thrilling, yet poignant performance as a man torn among his professional obligations, mental disabilities, and troubled past. He’s more on the reserved and emotionless side, but Affleck utilizes those qualities to craft a three-dimensional character, additionally injecting well-timed situational humor in a generally bleak film.

Anna Kendrick is decent, but nothing special in her role, but that’s more due to her lack of screen time. However, she and Affleck have fine chemistry, even having a good heart-to-heart moment about how she gambled to scrounge up money for a prom dress. On a side note, it felt refreshing for her not to be another obligatory love interest/damsel in distress type in a genre weighed down by that cliché.

With great character work, also comes enthralling action. The sound design for the guns is downright cacophonous with every shot from Christian’s sniper rifle piercing the audience’s ears. The action is gritty, but also highly entertaining, blending steady and handheld camerawork proficiently. It essentially combines the shaky cam and brutal hand to hand combat of The Raid with the mesmerizingly bloody gun-play of John Wick. It’s frequent in these bloody and gruesome scenes that Affleck makes smart use of his comedic wit, with his last kill in particular being his best instance.

At its core, The Accountant is a character study and it works well for the most part, while also factoring in some fun action. However, its plot is overly complex, and even convoluted at times. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of financial jargon and various threads in this one fabric of a story, if not paid close examination. Granted, some mesh well, such as Christian’s childhood flashbacks. However, others like those involving the treasury department agents’ investigation aren’t particularly engrossing as Simmons and Robinson are relegated to delivering exposition or telling us information rather than becoming fully fleshed out characters. They could be removed and the film wouldn’t suffer for it.

Additionally, the use of twists is hit or miss. The one at the end of the second act involving King is somewhat tacked on. Its inclusion makes sense because it adds some more atypical traits to Christian and tries to give King more development, but the execution is faulty since it halts the story’s progression and feels like an exposition dump. However, the twist at the climax involving Brax and Christian works, despite it being the only scene in which they meet. The bounce-back between  Bernthal and Affleck is emotionally compelling as it is darkly comical. I won’t get into these plot points any further as I wouldn’t want potential viewers to have their experience soiled.

Despite narrative gaps, The Accountant is worth your time because of Ben Affleck’s committed performance and the unique nature of protagonist he portrays.

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