Director: Gavin O’Connor
Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow, Cynthia Addai-Robinson
Run Time: 128 mins
‘The Accountant’ is the second of Gavin O’Connor’s directorial efforts this year after ‘Jane Got A Gun’ earlier in the year which received mixed reviews. It details the story of Christian Wolff, played by Ben Affleck who works as a freelance accountant as the title would suggest for dangerous criminal organisations. As he is starting to be investigated by the Treasury Department, he becomes a legitimate client of a company which he audits and finds discrepancies. However, Wolff also suffers from autism and when he was a child, was diagnosed by an institute and offered the chance to live there but his father decides that he needs to learn the hard way by overcoming his condition rather than being accepted by society for what he is. Wolff is also an extremely skilled marksman who is able to take out swarms of hitmen at once. It’s an odd mix for a film but it’s certainly original and the film boasts an impressive cast but can it synthesise these themes together into an engaging film?
‘The Accountant’ is an extremely uneven film and has a hard time balancing its themes. It is equal parts drama, action-thriller and mystery and these themes are all carelessly scattered around the film. It lunk-headedly handles its different character arcs and its premise is rather ludicrous. The film just doesn’t know what it wants to be. That said though, the film is thrilling to watch at times and has some admirable performances from its very solid cast, particularly in its lead Ben Affleck and as ludicrous as it all is, there are several good twists in its ending that satisfy all of the dodgy storytelling going on beforehand.
The film wouldn’t be half as entertaining as it is if not for the great cast that has been assembled here. Ben Affleck as the lead character, Christian Wolff is excellent and manages to blend the persona of a socially challenged mathematician and a masterful hitman together very well as ludicrous as that sounds. Anna Kendrick makes for sympathetic support for Affleck’s character and there are some nuanced performances from both John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor. Jon Bernthal is very good here too and is quite menacing and sinister in places and the always-reliable J.K. Simmons manages to put in a good performance in a terribly written role.
The narrative is where the film takes a significant nose-dive and the film’s script by Bill Dubuque who penned the disappointing 2014 film, ‘The Judge’ has an identity crisis in that it cannot handle and mesh together its themes. The film feels very erratic as it constantly chops-and-changes between being a thoughtful but heavy-handed drama to a violent, slick action thriller. Particularly poorly written is J.K. Simmons’ character, the director of Financial Crimes for the Treasury Department, who is dumped into the film who coerces a young analyst, Marybeth Medina played by Cynthia Addai-Robinson, to help him investigate Affleck’s character. I really hoped that this arc would amount to something but it doesn’t and Simmons’ character has a particularly awful monologue mid-way throughout the film which makes the simple mistake of showing, not telling and it is so cliched and heavy-handed that it really spoils the film and makes his character arc seem all the more pointless. The film’s portrayal of the theme of disability is very heavy-handed and several critics have pointed out that it gives Affleck’s character a superhero-like quality which is territory that the film does wander into at times which isn’t a particularly effective message to send out. The action sequences are well-written and slickly composed but don’t have much emotional heft.
The score by Mark Isham is solid and compliments the events being portrayed on-screen fairly well and the cinematography by Seamus McGarvey is very assured – the film is suitably bleak and dimly lit and the action sequences in particular are very slick and well orchestrated.
Overall, ‘The Accountant’ is a preposterous film that has an identity crisis in the fact that it cannot juggle its themes consistently. However, it is always entertaining and does offer some good twists along with some fine performances from its talented cast that has been assembled. The actual premise itself is quite original and I think with a tighter and more coherent script, this could have been a lot more subtle and nuanced. There have been calls for a sequel and I would quite happily watch these characters in a different story but serious work needs to go behind the camera to ensure that the film is more subtle in execution and decides on a direction it wants to go in, not just chop-and-change between themes and ideas. But the film is more than entertaining enough and it more than manages to pull itself up in its closing scenes with a couple of good twists hence why it deserves a solid three out of five.