Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Stars: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J K Simmons, Jon Bernthal, John Lithgow, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Robert C Treveiler, Seth Lee, Jake Presley, Mary Kraft, Jason Davis, Jeffery Tambor, Jean Smart.
The title may not sound like the basis for a very exciting film, but Christian Wolff, the title character, is not your average accountant; not only does he crunch numbers but he also crunches bodies. He’s the kind of superhero that exists in the wet dreams of H & R Block employees.
Wolff (played by Ben Affleck) is a high functioning autistic, a socially awkward maths savant, who has an uncanny affinity with numbers. But he also has a special set of skills due to some rather unusual training from his father (Robert C Treveiler, from Prisoners, etc), a former military officer who felt that rigorous training and strict discipline was the best way to treats his son’s affliction. he also undergoes a punishing daily routine.
Operating from a small office situated in a strip mall shopping centre in Plainfield, Illinois, Wolff is a forensic accountant who does the books and launders money for some of the most dangerous people on the planet, working under a variety of aliases. But he also has a strong moral code and if someone breaks it Wolff kills them. He leads a secret life as a ruthlessly efficient hitman.
A shadowy figure in some surveillance photos taken of suspect figures, Wolff has attracted the attention of soon to retire Treasury agent Ray King (J K Simmons). King coerces analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson, from tv’s Arrow, etc) into investigating and trying to uncover Wolff’s identity.
Meanwhile Wolff has been hired to audit the books of a cutting edge robotics company run by Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow), at the behest of Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), an accountant with the firm. Dana has discovered something wrong with the company’s finances, which will impact on its upcoming IPO. She finds herself targeted by some mysterious hitmen hired by Blackburn to silence her. Wolff protects Dana. The two form a sort of connection based on a mutual love of numbers, even though Wolff is unable to show emotion. Wolff then sets out to bring down Blackburn. Blackburn though has hired a bodyguard in the form of enigmatic lone wolf mercenary Brax (Jon Bernthal, from tv series Daredevil, etc), and a small and heavily armed force to eliminate Wolff and Cummings. The body count slowly rises.
Written by Bill Dubuque (The Judge, etc) The Accountant is an uneven, dark and brooding action thriller that ultimately becomes a little too busy for its own good. The screenplay was featured in the 2011 black list of undeveloped scripts and has something of the vibe of a 90s action thriller about it. The director is Gavin O’Connor, who gave us the drama Warrior, and he proves himself to be a strong visceral director of action. There are some brutal action sequences here, but a couple of them are staged in that clumsy, choppy style preferred by many of today’s filmmakers that renders them hard to watch. The climactic shootout takes place in a darkly lit environment that also renders them hard to make out what is happening.
However the film is a little too long for what it has to say and the plotting is a little too formulaic. It also becomes a little confusing at times thanks to a fragmented narrative that jumps back and forth in time and strings together four narrative strands that leave a few loose ends dangling. However, a late subplot involving Treasury agent King throws in a twist that will leave many scratching their heads. The pace slows on several occasions to allow for more plot exposition.
The film’s treatment of its autistic hero may also raise a few eyebrows, but O’Connor is sensitive to this aspect of the character. We get a lot of his backstory via a series of flashbacks that give us some insights into his character, but also leave many questions unanswered. We have seen other autistic characters depicted on screen, most notably with Dustin Hoffman’s character in the Oscar winning Rain Man, and even Asa Butterfield’s maths prodigy in the sweet coming of age tale X + Y.
Wolff makes for a fascinating and somewhat unusual protagonist, and Affleck’s performance maintains a fine balance as he taps into the character’s darker nature. Affleck seems to carry some of the bulk he added to his physique to play the caped crusader in the recent Batman Vs Superman, and he gets another chance to flex his muscles. Affleck has an imposing presence that suits the character here. He doesn’t speak much here, which makes for a taciturn anti-hero, and he barely looks other characters in the eye. He is the strong, silent type, the sort of taciturn action hero played by the likes of Schwarzenegger or the late Charles Bronson.
Affleck is surrounded by a solid supporting cast. Simmons delivers another stereotypical gruff performance here and he seems to coast through the film on autopilot. Lithgow has played the sleazy villain many times before and here his sociopathic character is also a familiar part of his repertoire. Kendrick has a nice, affable presence even though her role here as the typical damsel in distress is smaller, and wastes her potential. Her character goes missing for large chunks of The Accountant, and during those times the film misses her perky energy.
The Accountant is a flawed, formulaic, by the numbers action movie that delivers some great action scenes and will undoubtedly appeal to fans of the genre. And it even leaves the door open to a sequel should it do well at the box office.