Directed by Gavin O’Connor
Written by Bill Dubuque
Accounting is not exactly a sexy or exciting topic for, well anything, let alone a movie starring A-lister Ben Affleck. And yet, here we are. I must admit that there is something beautiful about accounting which sets numbers in balance and makes things equal. There is beauty in order and that is to be appreciated, but the premise for this film does seem a little off kilter when considered among other action films with an assassin-like lead character doing admirable work to keep the world safe from evil. He we get our hero keeping the world safe from financial evil, a topic which should not be lost on this country in this day and age. However, its translation onto the screen is unfortunately less exciting in a shoot ’em up style narrative than it was in something like last year’s The Big Short.
Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is an ace accountant, but you wouldn’t know it based on his modest house in suburban Chicago, or his modest accounting firm, ZZZ Accounting, which is settled between a Chinese take out restaurant and a laundromat in a sleepy strip mall. But his hidden talents are put to the test when a robotics company CEO (John Lithgow) hires him to “un-cook” their books and find out if someone has been stealing money from the company after a clerk (Anna Kendrick) found a discrepancy. Meanwhile, the Feds are after Chris as well, as Treasury agent Ray King (J.K. Simmons) seeks the accountant behind some of the world’s worst terrorists with the help of one of his junior analysts (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) with a past of her own.
On the surface, this film works. I think there is enough of an idea, and a well thought out one, to carry an exciting cat and mouse action thriller. However, where the film falls short is in the details, ironically. As Christian Wolff excels at reading between the lines, seeing past the numbers to solve highly complicated laundering schemes, the filmmakers fail to deliver the plot with the subtlety required of a intricately detailed, twist-filled financial crime thriller/mystery. I was intrigued from the start as we are introduced to each character, keeping up as I tried to figure out how each one fit into the overall story. But by the end I could tell that a great idea on paper was never filled in with the necessary subtext to take this from typical thriller action film to a finely woven tale complete with fleshed out and important characters, each with their own story to tell and experience.
The performances from the cast are fine, given the material they have to work with. Affleck instills a quiet sense of introversion and rage within Chris which makes him mysteriously intriguing to me. Kendrick is as she always is, giving a sweet performance as a junior financial clerk in over her head. Simmons and particularly Addai-Robinson are interesting here too, as Addai-Robinson’s subtle performance matches her character’s questionable past. Again, the details are what is missing here. The film tends to lead on the viewer far more than is necessary, only to deliver the most standard and uninspired twists when all is said and done. There are no revelatory moments. Those intended to be fall flat as a result, making The Accountant nothing more than a run-of-the-mill action romp through the financial accounting world.
The icy demeanor of Chris confuses me, especially as it comments on his condition as a person with Autism and Asperger’s. His intelligence is impressive, yet his investigative work with accounting numbers seems more exciting to me than how the filmmakers seem to weaponize his laser focus and high intelligence. The quirks of the condition are explored, but in all the wrong ways, which makes me question the film’s portrayal of a person with the condition. If the rest of the film’s inability to impress me, or color in between the lines with details deserving on a fairly convoluted and complex plot, weaving multiple characters, each with their own story, wasn’t enough, it’s treatment of the lead characters condition is enough to make me dismiss The Accountant as a good movie altogether. It has it’s moments, and it certainly plays with some spectacular ideas throughout, but it fails to all come together and definitely feels less than fully formed.