Right away it should be said that while The Accountant is not quite “good” it did impress me due to its existence. It was of little surprise to find that the film was once on the Hollywood Blacklist (a list of the most liked unmade scripts), as it clearly tries to accomplish a lot and somehow not seem silly. Well the film does manage to do a lot (too much), but it still ends up feeling pretty silly. Ben Affleck as an autistic accountant who can engage in deadly action allows an opening for a generic, but entertaining thriller. Regrettably, it’s the film’s need to add so much more story than necessary that keeps The Accountant from ultimately rounding out properly.
Affleck stars as Christian Wolff, a small-town accountant who actually makes a living un-cooking the books for many dangerous organizations. Additionally, while “on the spectrum”, Wolff is fully capable of shooting and fighting his way through anyone that essentially breaks his moral code. The story unfolds through two stories that eventually overlap. Wolff takes a new client in the form of a legitimate robotics company and gets embroiled in a deeper conspiracy. Meanwhile, Treasury agent Ray King (J.K. Simmons) enlists a young protégé (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to do some research to find out who this mysterious accountant really is.
Being one who both recognizes the limits of Affleck as a performer, but has never had any sort of grudge against the guy, it was hard to reasonably believe in the man as this character. There were too many ticks providing too many things for Affleck to do and distract from the real performance. Still, Affleck is committed to the role, which is basically a riff on a deleted plotline from Good Will Hunting and I can’t say the actor hasn’t at least tried on different personas.
Giving credit where credit is due, Bill Dubuque’s screenplay allows a good portion of the film to rely on the characters and seeing them develop. We get a sense of Wolff’s routine to keep himself level. Anna Kendrick pops up in the second act to provide Wolff with a reason to care and for the sake of lending the film some humor, given how self-serious it is. John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor and Jean Smart all step in to provide further credence to a film that establishes itself as an original adult drama. You even get Jon Bernthal as a wise-cracking assassin to counter what Wolff is bringing to the table.
Corporate conspiracy and hitmen with a heart of gold (or other quirks) are not the most innovative of concepts and The Accountant could get by on keeping things fairly straightforward. And yet, the film goes out of its way to stretch a 100-minute thriller into a 2 hour plus story that has all kinds of ins and outs, explaining away every possible aspect, in addition to a number of plot beats that ultimately go nowhere. If this was an adaptation of some popular spy novel series, I could understand the necessity of so much set up, but as it stands, while The Accountant 2: Carry The One could be fun, I would have been happier getting a much more contained story.
Part of the problem comes down to the unnecessary Simmons/Addai-Robinson storyline that has very little payoff. Additionally, while the first two-thirds of the film are quite entertaining, the third act decides to explain a lot. There is a lengthy amount of flashback information being told in an attempt to make sense of all the cryptic bits that were setup and it essentially points out how useless some of the story elements were, while taking away a lot of the excitement. From there, a standard shootout sequence only provides so much, even if there is a fun John Wick-like efficiency to how Wolff takes out his enemies.
Director Gavin O’Connor surprisingly manages to fit some of the same beats found in his terrific (and much underseen) film Warrior, in addition to crafting a decent-looking action flick. While Dubuque’s screenplay has its issues, O’Connor does enough to keep things moving and looking clear. The action is not over-edited and while the cinematic style is not all that vibrant compared to others of the film’s ilk, one can admire the commitment to taking all of this seriously, as silly as it all eventually seems.
If one buys into what The Accountant is putting out there, I can imagine enjoying the film even more. There is not too much here to ultimately recommend, but placing a lot of good actors in an adult-skewing drama that has a cool factor in the form of an accountant who can fight is enjoyable in concept. Not hurting is the sympathetic angle on autism/Asperger’s, as long as you can accept the film for handling this idea at its own level. This film is a lot of things that only equal out to so much, but the remainders are amusing enough.