The Accountant (2016): Film Review

Directed by: Gavin O’Connor
Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal
Viewed: Showcase Cinema De Lux, Leicester, 09/11/16
An autistic, genius, mathematician with a set of combat skills that Liam Neeson would be jealous of, works as an accountant, helping high profile criminal organisations launder their money. When he agrees to uncook the books for a new client, things don’t go entirely to plan, especially after the Treasury Department starts closing in on him. Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is the best thing about The Accountant, followed by elements of good and bad throughout, which lead to a finished product that seems a bit messy.

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The supporting cast all do a decent enough job in their roles, even if the characters they were playing at times felt a bit underdeveloped and unnecessary. Ray King (J.K. Simmons) seems to be an all too familiar character, an officer of the law, almost retired and looking to end his career on a big note by bringing ‘The Accountant’ to justice. There was more to Ray’s story as the film progressed, though irrelevant to the main story, and the role did seem wasted on an actor of the caliber of J.K. Simmons. Ray brings in Marybeth (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), an analyst with a shady history, in order to help capture The Accountant. Her character’s backstory felt incomplete, and as a result, it left me wondering why they bothered giving her character any depth at all, as once again, it didn’t add anything to the plot. Similarly, Brax (Jon Bernthal), despite being a fairly charismatic bad guy in the form of an assassin, seemed incredibly one dimensional. It was, however, incredibly enjoyable to watch our main character, Christian Wolff. Flashbacks to his childhood in the first half of the film, learning about him growing up with his condition, his Mother leaving the family behind and his Father trying to toughen him to the world, combined with the introduction we get of his current life as an adult is fascinating. The comic-relief we get from his attempts at social interaction were also handled well, and were some of the high points of the film.
Moving onto the story, I wish we’d gotten to see a bit more of Christian’s secret criminal life, his dealings with drug cartels and the Mafia. It felt like our main character had lead an incredibly exciting and dangerous career, but we only managed to scratch the surface with what was witnessed on screen. It was the character of Christian that made The Accountant so interesting, but it over-complicated itself in sub-plots and twists that bogged down the story. Without spoiling anything, there were a couple of revelations in the latter stages of the film that felt like they should have perhaps been an exciting plot-twist, but they came off as a bit too coincidental, and was quite jarring to the narrative. The action scenes were shot incredibly well, though towards the end, it grew a little tiresome, as it wasn’t the action that made the film interesting to watch.

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The Accountant starts off strong, but it seems to shift tone more than once during the film, and the pacing doesn’t always work. We’re left with what, at times, feels like a crime thriller, whilst others it is a character driven drama and at its low points, it’s a generic action film, none of which come together to a cohesive whole. A great supporting cast almost seems wasted, with most stories and sub-plots feeling incomplete and unnecessary. A variety of plot holes are hastily filled in a monologue, in what comes across as cheap and lazy. The shining star amongst all this is the portrayal we get of Christian’s autism, and how his mind functions. I believe the ideas behind this film could have been great, but they were just not executed well.
The Accountant is an average and forgettable 5/10
Fun fact: Anna Kendrick plays an accountant in this film. In real life, her Mother is an accountant, and helped her understand some of the math elements in the script.

Stuart Keating