Director: Gavin O’Connor
Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, John Lithgow, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal
Running Time: 128 minutes
Release Date: November 4th
While perfectly serviceable and with stand-out moments of acting and directing, The Accountant‘s sole purpose seems to be to maintain and promote the questionable ‘Ben Affleck: Action Hero’ brand. The film is a weird blend of cutesy Good Will Hunting misfit hyper-intelligence with bursts of Taken-style action. Despite a charming first act, the film fails to be great once it falls into juvenile one-man-army silliness. The attention paid to the autism of the protagonist is given a surprising amount of care, but it all amounts to lip-service in favour of embarrassing ‘Dad-Movie’ action.
Affleck plays Christian Wolff, a highly intelligent public accountant with a high-function form of autism, who acts as the numbers man for the world’s largest organised criminals, using the combination of his brains and his Mad, Dad Action Skills when necessary. Deciding to take a more mundane gig to avoid suspicion, he takes on a reasonably pedestrian audit of John Lithgow’s company, suspecting that some of the higher-ups have been cooking the books to line their pockets. Aided by the plucky, likeable (and uncomfortably young) Anna Kendrick, he discovers things are not as they seem. Before long, necks are broken, guns are fired and numbers are crunched in an effort to Get to The Bottom of This.
The computer-like Ben Affleck does a good job with what he’s given and clearly cares about the material, but the coolness and badassery on display don’t gel with the level of child-like vulnerability the character is said to have – it’s reluctant to show any sign of Christian Wolff at his most human leaving an action hero who is perfectly likeable and well-meaning, but nothing special. More interesting is child actor Seth Lee who plays Christian in flashbacks that explain how he went from frightened tyke to burly badass – the film wears its heart on its sleeve in these sequences, but they’re the only sections where it really seems to want to say anything about living with autism. Anna Kendrick, John Lithgow and Jon Bernthal all do the work we’ve seen them do elsewhere and earn their keep (Bernthal gets the unforgettable line “I’ll take care of this accountant myself!”). J.K. Simmons plays a hard-ass treasury agent seven months from retirement (and boy does he let us know), whose last remaining trophy will be finding Wolff. His protegé, up-and-comer Cynthia-Addai Robinson acquits herself well in a film with a sea of established stars.
The Accountant is definitely enjoyable, but is hampered by a confusing script and a lack of direction in the story department – for a film about accounting, outside of one or two perfunctory scenes of number-crunching and a ridiculous montage, you could have fooled me. Additionally, while much is made of Wolff’s former gigs with international cartels, they have little relevance in a plot predominately driven by cuddly old John Lithgow. It’s clear the Franchise Executives were hanging around the set trying to find an angle for future instalments (no problems there – why not an autistic action hero?), but it’s to the detriment of this film. Given Affleck’s proximity to honest-lawman J.K. Simmons, another ulterior motive of the filmmakers may have been to bolster faith and excitement in the duo’s future Bat-related projects (Simmons is the new Commissioner Gordon in case you don’t follow the swamp of comic book casting news). Many of the actors in the film feel like WB contract players who happened to be around – Affleck, Simmons and Lithgow are all stars of recent tentpoles, even relative newcomer Cynthia Addai-Robinson is a recurring guest-star in the Warner Bros TV series Arrow.
Ultimately, there are worse ways to waste two and a bit hours and if one were to choose the more enjoyable of Ben Affleck’s action films in 2016, The Accountant would be the clear winner by many country miles. But given the promising material on the table, there’s a definite feeling of missed potential. Wait for the DVD and watch it with Dad on a tipsy Christmas Day afternoon.