Review: 'The Accountant' is Hackneyed, But Still Fun Entertainment
by Jeremy Kirk
October 14, 2016
There's something inevitably comedic about a film called The Accountant, especially if that movie is about a cool-blooded CPA with equal penchants of crunching numbers and cracking skulls. My father was a CPA, and I can assure you the thought of him as a ruthless killer in the vein of John Wick is in itself almost laughable. That's the idea behind this film, The Accountant, though, and the fact that it stars Ben Affleck as the eponymous character certainly goes a long way in helping boost its sincerity. Aid also comes from the commitment from his surrounding cast as well as the film's ability to notch up the intensity and excitement with an endless stream of cliché-ridden-but-entirely-enjoyable action sequences. If you can get past the cheesiness and forgive it for its by-the-numbers suspense, The Accountant is a thriller worthy of your time.
The title character that Ben Affleck is playing is a person named Christian Wolff, though that's obviously a pseudonym. Whatever his real name, Christian suffers from a Asperger's, a rare social disorder that has made it hard for him to establish and maintain relationships all his life. Christian is also a super-genius when it comes to numbers, a gift that makes him the prime candidate for helping various terrorist organizations and criminal industries to cook their financial books at the end of the year. It puts him in direct contact with some of the world's most dangerous criminals and also makes his profession the target of Ray King (J.K. Simmons), a retiring treasury agent who has made it his final mission to track Wolff down.
Directed by Gavin O'Connor, who impressed audiences with the MMA drama Warrior a few years ago, The Accountant splashes heavy messages about relationships and coping with mental illness all over the action-heavy map. The screenplay written by Bill Dubuque often flashes back to Wolff's earlier life and the unusual connection he has with his military father and also his brother after their mother leaves home. This interlaces with the current investigation into Wolff's true identity as well as the accountant's latest job, figuring out to where a robotics company's missing $60 million disappeared. This last bit also sees a small batch of ruthless mercenaries tying up loose ends one bullet at a time.
That puts Wolff in direct conflict with the relationship he's building with Dana (Anna Kendrick), the employee at the robotics company who first discovered the missing funds. It also sets in motion the intense structure O'Connor lays down for the action found within The Accountant. While the drama and character beats are hitting typical stride, the action hits hard and heavy, Wolff's abilities with a weapon as precise and as cooly handled as his way with the numbers.
However, the moments between action sequences are messy, to say the least. Gavin O'Connor does his best with all the facets at work in Dubuque's weighed-down screenplay, and, for the most part, the director handles them ably. It's only after the experience of watching The Accountant that piecing the many layers together shows just how much is attempting to work together here.
You have to hand it to Affleck's commitment in the role, though. The actor captures Wolff's mental disorder with all the finger tapping and obligatory quirks you'd find with such a character, and it plays out more often than not precisely how you would expect. Affleck's sincerity is a huge benefit to the character as well as the film on the whole, almost overshadowing any semblance of banality the been-there-done-that story leaves as a side effect. The actor becomes dynamite when his character is forced to turn on the violence, though, and even with its air of being nothing new, the film ultimately works because of his commitment.
You could say the same for the supporting players rounding out the cast, as well; Kendrick doing everything she can to make her clichéd character something more than just another damsel in distress. Simmons is solid as the treasury agent who sits behind a desk, Cynthia Addai-Robinson pulling out even more stops as the agent he's directing on the ground. Other supporting players who shine include Jeffrey Tambor as one of Wolff's mentor and John Lithgow as head of the robotics company. Jon Bernthal's turn as the merc in charge of cleaning the slate for the bad guys is equally powerful and human, the big revelation about his character obvious from the start though the execution on that makes it something worthwhile, as well.
That's something that could be used to describe The Accountant as a whole, too. By the time the film reaches its climactic battle with the big baddie holed up in a mansion littered with killer mercenaries you've reserved yourself to the film's clichéd nature. Most of what plays out in The Accountant and how it does so would fit right in with the action movies of the 1990's – with explosive exposition dropping as frequently as bullet-ridden bodies. O'Connor delivers on the film's action side with solid measure, and Affleck does his due diligence in making it all come across as realistic. There's much to work around with The Accountant, but, deep down, its action-heavy roots show and end up entertaining pretty much from start to finish.