"The Accountant" Does Some Creative Figuring For An Unconventional Action Thriller

By Scott Kurland
Film: The Accountant
Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jeffry Tambor, and John Lightgow
Rated: R
Director: Gavin O’Connor

I feel like we're living in an era of redemption for certain actors. Over the last ten years, actors who were box office poison have become our most bankable actors. Seven years ago, studios wouldn’t even think of making an Oscar campaign for Matthew McConaughey because he was in his romantic comedy phase; or, as his movie posters are commonly known as today: “Matthew McConaughey can’t stand straight and comfortably leans on his female lead.” I’m not kidding. Look at the posters for “Failure to Launch”, “Ghost of Girlfriends Past,” and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”. It’s like he's suffering from an inner ear infection. Now, studios shell out millions upon millions to get him to be in their films. Johnny Depp and Ryan Reynolds have also suffered in movie purgatory and risen from the ashes like mighty phoenixes. Even Cuba Gooding Jr. is crushing it on television right now.  But by far, no one has suffered more than Ben Affleck. This man created a film-making empire in the last few years after being shunned in the early 2000s for films like “Gigli” and “Paycheck”. This week’s film is the Affleck-starring-vehicle “The Accountant." Let’s find out if it’s any good shall we?

In “The Accountant” Affleck stars as Christian Wolff, a high functioning Autistic accountant who possesses an unusual set of skills. Wolff is the accountant for dirty organizations like the mob, the cartel, and Ponzi schemers . However, once he cleans their books, he cleans their house and brings them down. Wolff is constantly in a war with himself as he reflects on his past and how his father morphed him into the killing machine he is today. Wolff’s world comes to a halt when he is brought in to to find a large sum of missing funds at a robotics company run by Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow). Wolff must protect the woman (Anna Kendrick) who uncovered the missing cash, and in doing so, he may unravel at the seams. Wolff has another problem when a mysterious gun for hire (Jon Bernthal) comes after him, and the Government (J.K Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson) try and uncover who he is. Will Christian find out who is behind all this? Or, will he go down trying?

I’m conflicted about this film, because when it works, it works really well. But when it tries to add twists and turns to the plot, it fails. There’s three big reveals in this film and I predicted two of them in the first twenty minutes. When I think about writing for film and television, I always remember what “Simpsons” writer Mike Scully said about writing a good twist in the story arch. When you add a twist and turn, you’re trying to do a hair pin turn without breaking everything in the process. “The Accountant” does the hair pin turn, but gets a ton of bumps and bruises rounding that corner. There’s too many plots and story lines in this film. The only plot we really need is Affleck’s, and maybe one that stars Jon Bernthal. The J.K. Simmons one is ok, but it doesn’t seem necessary in the long run. 

I understand what screenwriter Bill Dubuque was trying to do with all these plot points, but there’s so many spinning plates that are in motion and three of them come crashing down.  The one plot point that wasn’t necessary was adding Anna Kendrick’s character. She was her adorable self but that character really didn’t need to even be in the film. In addition, there’s a weird storyline with Jeffrey Tambor that is not needed. The crux of the film could be that Affleck is brought in after someone (an unseen individual) finds missing money. That unseen individual turns on Affleck for being too good, and gets screwed when he turns out to be a lethal killing machine. This film is not bad, but it could have been Oscar Worthy if they focused solely on Bernthal and Affleck in a game of cat & mouse.

Gavin O’Connor’s direction is great in all the action scenes. Affleck is a beast, fighting mercenaries and taking down bad guys. The way O’Connor executes those scenes  makes me slightly recommend this movie. Well, the fight scenes and Affleck. I don’t understand why,  for so many years, Ben Affleck was considered a bad actor. I always thought he gave great performances, even in terrible films. For me, he’s the best thing in almost every film he’s in. Affleck does some great work as Christian Wolff, and it’s truly a tough role to pull off because Wolff is high-functioning autistic. If Affleck was too obvious, it would be offensive. If he’s too subtle, you’d say he isn’t acting. Affleck walks a very fine line to make this a two dimensional character and he is, once again, the best thing about the film.

“The Accountant” has a lot of flaws; mainly in the story and in the script. However, as I said before Affleck is fantastic and Bernthal is just as good as his total opposite. If you aren’t a fan of thrillers or action films, skip this film (also skip the film if you’re expecting a romance or serious film about suffering from autism). If you want great fight scenes and to see post-Batman Ben Affleck murder a bunch of bad guys, then check it out on DVD. I can’t fully recommend a theater viewing of “The Accountant” because I feel that at least twenty-five minutes could be removed from this film. I do think this will be a cult film and a guilty pleasure down the road. So if you want to see “The Accountant” and don’t mind a trillion plots, see it. If you want to wait for Netflix, that might be the better choice.

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