I sat with a pretty permanent smile on my face throughout much of The Accountant. Yes, the performances were fun, and the action sequences were quite good, but that’s not really why I was smiling. The smile came from realizing early on this wasn’t the broody, complex thriller the effective “Everything in Its Right Place” trailer would have us believe. The Accountant is a B flick with an overly elaborate plot full of telegraphed twists and way too much ground to cover to make it believable. But what makes it work is that there seems a knowing twinkle in the eye of all the actors, especially Ben Affleck.
The general conceit of the movie—a man with autism uses an adeptness with problem solving and mathematics to serve as a superhuman accountant, but he also kills people—works just fine. for what it is. However, there’s always way too much going on to be truly cohesive. His being a puzzle-obsessed high stakes number cruncher gets lost in the intrigue of his targeting of and being targeted by his angry criminal clients… a concept that, in turn, gets drowned out by flashbacks to his childhood detailing how he ended up this way to begin with. And that gets lost in a subplot about federal agents searching for him, which too gets lost in a meet-cute with a young accountant he encounters on a job. The Accountant not just a movie; it’s all movies.
Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, the titular accountant whose autism has been channeled through years of physical and psychological training so he can live a seemingly normal life. Of course, we know his life isn’t normal; his ability to figure out accounting problems so quickly has led him to be the go-to accountant for the world’s most powerful criminal organizations. But he never stays in one place too long, and has a whole lot of guns to practice his ace marksmanship. When he’s hired by a major robotics firm about to go public to sniff out any traces of embezzlement, he begins to put together a puzzle that bad people aren’t eager for him to solve.
While working on this puzzle, he meets the young accountant (Anna Kendrick) who found the initial suggestion of foul play. Because of his autism, she finds it very hard to connect with Christian… though she tries. Elsewhere, a federal bureau chief (J.K. Simmons) brings in a young analyst with a dark past (Cynthia Addai Robinson) to help find the accountant whom he’s been looking for for years. If that weren’t enough, there’s a hired heavy (Jon Bernthal) who seems to be on a collision course with our accountant, not to mention a ton of thugs who are bound to get caught in the crossfire.
So, The Accountant is a fairly fun, mostly harmless action movie that just happens to have two real flaws. The first is that the script thinks it’s impossibly clever, when really it’s just muddled and predictable. There’d be nothing wrong with a straightforward version of this movie, but instead writer Bill Dubuque feels the need to couch everything like it’s some grand mystery. After the screening, I had several text messages from A Guy a Mile Away telling me all the things he saw coming. And they were plentiful. It plays by every rule in the How to Write a Standard Thriller book and everything feels terribly pedestrian.
The other big issue is the way the movie deals with autism. Or “autism,” since what Ben Affleck conveys in the movie is less true autism and more like a disaffected person with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. While the movie is generally pretty inoffensive, it really tries to hammer home the message that a person with autism can lead a productive life, to the point that it seems like it could almost be a PSA… if not for the half-rendered idea of what the affliction actually is. Broad strokes only, with only a couple of attempts at the subtler aspects. I don’t blame Affleck for this, I just don’t think anyone involved knew how to properly handle the matter they tried to make so important.
But, as I said, this isn’t the kind of movie to get too hung up on that stuff about. The Accountant a moderately effective action movie with good actors delivering a fun enough time, but it gets bogged down in lots of too-clever-by-half writing honey traps.
Rating: 3 out of 5 burritos
Image: Warner Bros