Please be aware, this is a lightly spoilery review: enough of the movie’s issues result around what are supposed to be reveals/surprises that they have to be referenced.
The poster for “The Accountant” features, in part, Ben Affleck holding a rather larger gun. This prompts the question as to whether “The Accountant” is an ironic title about a guy who goes around with rather large guns or if maybe, he really does work with numbers and just guns down financial problems.
In fact, Affleck’s Christian Wolff not only works with numbers but also plays with large guns. He is an accountant/hitman. To suggest that director Gavin O’Connor’s movie is silly is to undersell it, one of the main issues, however, is that it doesn’t seem like it’s meant to be silly. It very much feels like it is trying to play it straight.
When you get right down to it, “The Accountant” is a movie that borrows from any number of sources. So, you have a child with a condition, autism in this case, which causes him to view and interact with the world differently from most people. Then you have an abusive father. Add to that a mob tale, a superhero story, a love story, a financial swindle, and some of Dexter’s father’s training and toss it all into a blender. The result is “The Accountant.”
As one would expect, some elements of this whole thing work better than others. Wolff’s job as an accountant, trying to help regular folks and unravel a big, corporate cooked books mystery is enjoyable… really enjoyable. Wolff has a whole “Beautiful Mind” thing going on with numbers which somehow makes the math montage the best part of the movie.
All the other elements are fighting for their turn in front of the camera though, so we never really get a feel for what’s going wrong at the robotics company run by John Lithgow’s Lamar Blackburn, where Wolff has been hired to uncook the books. Money has gone missing and there are only three suspects, but there are only three suspects because the movie only introduces us to four people from the company, and one of them is Anna Kendrick’s Dana Cummings, who brought the financial irregularities to her boss thereby eliminating her from the suspect pool.
This isn’t the only example of the movie telling so many stories that it can’t be bothered to put together a decent number of characters for any of the stories either. Because of this, the reveals/twists are ruined – if it isn’t character A (and we know it isn’t), it has to be character B because there isn’t a C.
O’Connor tries to obfuscate some of this by leaping back and forth in time – offering up Wolff’s childhood alongside the current tale, but that just makes matters worse. While the entirety of Wolff’s youth made him the man he is today, and while we get different glimpses into it, all the glimpses are of the same young version of Wolff. This isn’t Wolff at five and then 10 and then 13 and then 17, it is “Young Chris” played by one actor (Seth Lee).
All of the above shouldn’t indicate that there are a scant number of characters in the film, there are just a scant number in each individual story within the film. Consequently, each is crucial and when they’re played by a recognizable star, you know they’re going to be important. Thus, in an overly long (more than two hour) movie, when Jeffrey Tambor only shows up for a minute or two in the first 90 minutes of film, you know he’s going to come back around – that there is more to him than what we’ve been told. J.K. Simmons’ Treasury agent may appear more early on, but as it’s a very flat part for the first two-thirds of the movie, we all know that’s going to change as well. A similar issue exists with Jon Bernthal’s Brax.
“The Accountant” is a one trick pony, but worse than that, it’s a trick that doesn’t work the first time and then works less each subsequent time it’s deployed… and it’s deployed repeatedly. Character motivations are murky (because revealing them would give away the twists everyone knows are coming), the story is downright foolish, and even the actual sequences prove a letdown.
The single best character in the movie isn’t even Wolff. It’s Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). She is a young-and-bright Treasury analyst plucked by Simmons’ Ray King to help him on the Wolff case. She, too, has a sordid history that comes out over the course of the movie. The way in which she changes due to the case may not be unique to this film, but Addai-Robinson makes it feel special and different.
The rest of “The Accountant” is just an over-long, over-dull mash-up and best avoided.
photo credit: Warner Bros.