The Accountant (15) | Close-Up Film Review
Dir. Gavin O’Connor, US, 128mins, 2016
Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons
The contrived looking plot involves a lot more depth than meets the eye in this quasi-comic book action thriller which contains all the hallmarks of an intriguing 21st Century superhero, albeit one that works as a forensic accountant at ‘ZZZ Accounting’. No snoring here though.
Despite appearances, Christian Wolff (Affleck) is a complex character and there is more to him than an Asperger’s diagnosed child that becomes a killer. In true comic-style he had a troubled upbringing in the shadow of his condition, his parents disagreeing about how to treat him, his father teaching him to fight and in his adulthood, he eventually harnesses his perceived weakness to help others. He develops his own style of justice of the vigilante variety.
Unassuming Wolff, seen initially exploiting and bending tax loopholes to aid an old couple out of financial difficulty, is working under a guise. On the side, he vets the books for leading crime organisations and is highly sought-after for his dispassionate approach and outsider perspective. However, his activities have attracted the attention of Treasury Official Ray King (Simmons) and is forced to take a ‘clean’ job checking the books of ‘Living Robotics’ headed by Lamar Black (John Lithgow). The problem he is meant to smooth out has been discovered by junior analyst Dana Cummings (Kendrick) whose attempts to aid and befriend him are geekily awkward. Wolff is sucked into a darker situation than he expected as his clinical need to for closure and task completion lead he and Dana into deep water.
Affleck does a very good job at doing nothing for the first section of the film. His condition is treated seriously by the filmmakers and his expressionlessness is sustained long enough for his latter partial opening to feel rewarding and true to his character. He has a skewed sense of humour and some of his quirks are amusing, but not exploitatively used. Kendrick similarly has a tough task as an intentionally annoying fellow numberical enthusiast. Her role is pretty small and is deployed for just the right amount of exploration into Wolff’s ability to connect with others. There is no kiss and no walking off into the sunset as an emotionally ‘cured’ couple at the end of the film and as a result their relationship, or lack of it is all the more convincing. The final scene is one of the most rewarding moments and is the result of some real truth for their situations.
The Treasury investigations into Wolff are ridiculous, the connections stumbled upon tenuous and the discovery of Wolff made laughably easy. There’s a particularly frustrating 15-minutes of explication between King and his deputy in the case, someone who has been roped into working under him using a blackmail. This exposition involves both their ‘pasts’ and connections to the case all being lumped together in one lazy easy-to-manage, single package of boredom. Simmons has a moment of brilliance here in an otherwise competent performance, where he recounts a meeting with ‘The Accountant’ in a full-frame monologue that reinforces his Academy Award-winning pedigree. Oddly, the intricacy of the backstory to Wolff’s life is one of the film’s greatest strengths, but it’s neatness and connectedness do push the boundaries of contrivance.
As it’s clearly a concept film, it does a tremendous job of holding the attention for over two hours. When a mentally challenged child prodigy can gun down an army of special forces; there’s always going to be a degree of belief required of the audience. At most points though the film delivers justifiable reasons for the actions taken – there are some notable exceptions – the scene at the funeral still makes no sense.
There is much scope for further investigation into some areas of Wolff’s character. His relationship with his brother is very well, but sparsely used and the military past and training he received under his father’s eye could be clarified, as they are brushed over here. Where Doctor Strange failed to create a naturalistic world around the abnormal nature of the titular figure, The Accountant is entertaining, with pathos for its subject matter and is surprisingly plausible.
Review by George Meixner