The Accountant makes for a solid, yet unremarkable, action flick that can’t live up to its higher aspirations.
Diagnosed with a form of high-functioning autism as a child, Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) possesses tremendous skills and abilities. He’s able to complete jigsaw puzzles upside down and has a great understanding of complex mathematical problems. Christian’s prowess with numbers leads him into a career as an accountant, where he manages the finances for some of the world’s deadliest criminal organizations. His activities attract the attention of Treasury Department agent Ray King (J.K. Simmons), who assigns his associate Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to track Christian down so he can learn the accountant’s many secrets.
With the authorities hot on his heels, Christian decides to take on a legitimate client, agreeing to uncook the books for a state-of-the-art robotics company that recently found a sizable discrepancy in their records. As Christian works to unravel the mystery surrounding it, a plot of violence unfolds around him, forcing Christian to rely on his superior combat training in order to fight for his own survival and protect the lives of the clients he’s become close to.
Directed by Gavin O’Connor (Warrior), The Accountant is a film that’s attracted a considerable amount of attention due to its premise and depiction of autism in a mainstream action film. The hope going into it was that it could offer Affleck an intriguing vehicle while also being respectful (and not exploitive) of people who suffer from the real-life disability. In that regard, the movie is mostly successful. The Accountant features a strong performance by Affleck, but it ultimately comes off as an underdeveloped, generic genre picture.
The screenplay by Bill Dubuque (The Judge) is a mixed bag. On the positive side of the spectrum, it crafts a very fascinating main character in Christian; someone who has difficulties socializing and “fitting in” even though he wants to. The Accountant is at its most captivating when he is on-screen, as it’s interesting to watch Wolff’s daily routine and how he reacts to various scenarios. Dubuque also makes effective use of flashbacks to highlight key moments from Christian’s youth, fleshing the film’s subject out in ways that make him relatable and sympathetic. Robert C. Treveiler makes the most of his brief screen time in these sequences as Christian’s father, dishing out important life lessons while trying to manage a tough and extraordinary situation. All in all, Christian is a compelling figure, and some viewers would probably be interested in seeing him return in a sequel.
Of course, part of the credit there has to go to Affleck, who delivers one of the better performances in his career. The actor comes across as suitably emotionally distant, using that trait as a great asset. When Affleck is in accountant mode, his turn is genuinely disarming and endearing, as he’s able to drop in moments of levity with his comedic timing and charm. Affleck develops good chemistry with Anna Kendrick, who has a supporting role as the bubbly and chipper Dana Cummings. Their odd couple dynamic features some fun interactions and moments, and it would have been nice to see the two together more often. And as he demonstrated in Batman V Superman earlier this year, Affleck is also more than capable of handling the necessary action bits, transforming into a ruthless and efficient killer who would give John Wick a run for his money.
Where The Accountant falters is that it tries to balance too many genres at once. There’s elements of a fractured family drama, the story of a “different” person trying to find his place in a cruel world, crime, action, and even romantic-comedy. The problem is that Dubuque doesn’t completely develop many of these fully, so the end result comes across as a bit undercooked and not as impactful as it could have been. Though Christian and Dana make for a nice pair, their relationship could have benefitted from being explored further to make the arc more satisfying. In addition, The Accountant throws in some twists and turns towards the end, but the revelations aren’t as affecting as they could have been. To be fair, they are somewhat successful at drawing a response from the audience, but some viewers may feel the story is messy and convenient.
As stated above, Kendrick is one of the standouts of the supporting cast, drawing on her natural abilities and talent to play Dana. The role isn’t exactly a stretch for the actress, but she gets the job done and even gets involved in the action in a creative manner. Jon Bernthal also shines as the hitman Brax, providing the film with one of its more well-rounded characters. It’s a treat to watch him perform due to Bernthal’s magnetic screen presence. Brax is unpredictable when he’s threatening his targets, leaving viewers on the tips of their toes. In some scenes, the actor elevates what’s on the page, injecting the role with the necessary gravitas to truly suck audiences in. Simmons doesn’t have much to do as King, but he gives a typically committed turn as an authoritative presence. John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor make glorified cameos and are fine in their parts, but the script doesn’t leave much for them to chew on either.
In the end, The Accountant makes for a solid, yet unremarkable, action flick that can’t live up to its higher aspirations. It earns points for mixing up the formula by having an autistic savant be the “hero,” but stops short of realizing its full potential. O’Connor has a steady hand in directing, crafting well-realized action set pieces and getting good performances out of his cast, but the screenplay is ultimately what lets the film down. Those who were intrigued by the marketing should be able to enjoy The Accountant, and it’s worth checking out during a slow time at the box office. However, cinephiles expecting a next-level “Good Will Hunting meets Jason Bourne” hybrid might be a tad disappointed.
The Accountant is now playing in U.S. theaters. It runs 128 minutes and is rated R for strong violence and language throughout.