The Accountant (2016) / Thriller-Action
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence and language throughout
Running Time: 128 min.
Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, John Lithgow, Robert C. Treveiler, Andy Umberger, Jeffrey Tambor, Jean Smart, Alison Wright
Director: Gavin O'Connor
Screenplay: Bill Dubuque
Review published October 18, 2016
Ben Affleck (Batman v Superman, Gone Girl) stars as the titular accountant, a highly functional autistic savant and skilled fighter/gunman named Christopher Wolff, who currently has an office at a strip mall that fronts for his real business, and a lucrative one at that, as the under-the-radar forensic accounting wunderkind who helps save major businesses, governments, and underworld figures willing to pay an exorbitant price. His latest client is a famed roboticist named Lamar Black (Lithgow, Interstellar), who wants the accounting dynamo to go through his books to find out why his own accountant, Dana Cummings (Kendrick, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates), is having trouble with some of the numbers that aren't adding up, potentially resulting in a major financial leak in profits. When his work is cut short, Wolff can't bear to stop without achieving completion, though the Treasury agents on his tail threatens to undo everything he's built up before that can happen.
Blessed with a talented cast of actors to boast, The Accountant manages to drum up sporadic interest, only to not be able to string much momentum to make it worthwhile, mostly due to a farfetched plot, idealized characterizations, and a wholly lumbering script burdened by an overreliance to flashbacks to Wolff's childhood as a high-strung autistic boy whose overbearing, military psychologist father seeks to break him out of his many idiosyncrasies through a trial by fire that results in him ultimately becoming a deadly martial artist and sharpshooter assassin.
It plays quite similar to another occupation-oriented film in Antoine Fuqua's The Equalizer, only the talented action director and Denzel Washington's charisma to help overcome a silly plot and poorly conceived situations from the script from Bill Dubuque, who scripted the similarly overlong and shoddily developed The Judge, which also relied on its competent cast to try to elevate a dreadful script to being modestly entertaining. The Equalizer has been loosely based upon a TV show, which The Accountant often comes across as, with its long and methodical setups to the characters who all seem to have their own story arcs that will need resolving down the road. Unfortunately, most of the characters aren't interesting in the slightest, save for a bunch of Christopher's personality quirks (involving such things as a strobe-light and heavy metal fueled bout of self-flagellation and OCD-tendency of perfectly symmetrical eating habits) leaving us without much of a rooting interest in seeing what developments happen for any of them before the end-credit roll.
One of the script's many flaws comes from the obviousness of a few reveals that are supposed to tie everything together by the time of its action-packed finale. Even the autism angle is more of a gimmick -- a shortcut used in the narrative as a means to have the protagonist solve a series of mathematical puzzles and display extraordinary abilities without the need for further explanation other than he is gifted in ways we could never understand. Subplots involving Treasury Department agents with troubled pasts deducing the identity of the accountant in ways that are nearly as prodigious as that of the genius hero only add to the pile-up of implausibility that hampers the plot from taking root in enough reality to sow any of its conceptual seeds. Ironic that the more the film tries to explain the character motivations, the less sense any of them actually make.
The Accountant isn't a fully realized story so much as a collection of high concepts and b-movie plot points, which aren't quite enough to make for a compelling watch for anyone wanting something to mull over beyond the superficial setups to preposterous confrontations that reek more of the perspiration of exertion than they do the breath of inspiration.
©2016 Vince Leo