-The film’s silly tone and relentlessly entertaining action sends it into guilty pleasure territory despite some readily apparent flaws and inconsistent plot structure.
There’s a few movies every year like The Accountant, where despite readily apparent flaws and severe plot inconsistencies, it manages to win the audience over and be entertaining for a few hours to ensure there’s no major disappointment. The Accountant is an example of a movie that is so over-the-top and so persistently silly that it’s hard not to put your attention to disbelief aside and enjoy the twists and turns that the movie takes. It’s funny that we get this film in Oscar season with an excellent cast, because after three minutes in the movie theater, you’ll know that this isn’t trying to make any qualifying runs.
It was a project that star Ben Affleck really was interested in, delaying a few of his own in the interest of starring in this film, and the all-star cast helps immensely to try to make this believable enough to sit through.
In a subtle shot at accountants everywhere, Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a high-functioning man in his physical prime with either very functionable Autism or Asperger’s syndrome, the line between the two remains blurred in the movie and we never really know what his actual diagnosis is, just know that he has trouble communicating and experiencing emotional connections, but is wickedly intelligent. Many of our scenes, especially in the beginning, are flashbacks from when Christian was a child (portrayed by Seth Lee, his kid brother by Jake Presley), trying to deal with his condition after his mother (Mary Kraft) walks out and leaves him with his stern father (Robert Treveiler), who wants Christian to learn to deal with his condition by over-exposure and learning to channel his energy into martial arts. After an incident years ago, he is caught and trained in prison on how to make a life in crime from Jeffrey Tambor.
This upbringing has left the adult Christian able to live on his own and function in society, but he also sheds identities like they’re an unnecessary layer of clothing, and move from place to place depending on his work. His job is not just as a CPA accountant with a small office in the suburbs, he’s actually spent most of his time cooking the books for large-scale criminal organizations, probably because of the mental challenge and the physical stimulation when he’s forced to resort to violence in the violent underworld. His training has left him a perfect shot with a gun, and Batman-like fighting ability that can get him out of dangerous situations. However, his secretary (we never see her face until the end but the voice is from Alison Wright), learns that the FBI (treasury secretary JK Simmons blackmails Cynthia Addai-Robinson into taking the case to locate Christian) is hot on his tail, so she convinces him to get a high-profile client to add to the aura of legitimacy in his operation.
The company that hires him is lead by a husband and wife who want to keep it private (Jean Smart and Ed Chilton), and a tycoon that wants to take it public (John Lithgow). A young accountant for them, Dana (Anna Kendrick), has discovered some information that leads her to think something fishy is going on. Assuming that they’re hiring a dopey accountant who will OK everything and not ruin the illegal edits like Dana did, they hire Christian, who unbeknownst to them, is smart enough to uncover everything, not just a fishy paper trail. With this happening, we start getting attempts on Dana and Christian’s life from a local hit-man Braxton (Jon Bernthal), so Christian must turn to his dark side to keep Dana safe from the threat.
That plot stated above may not be easily apparent from watching the movie as it’s happening. There are a lot of issues and logical jumps that you have to make in order to piece things together as I did above, and even that took three paragraphs to fully graph the scope of the movie before the real action begins happening. The film really struggles balancing all of these plot devices together in one whole, as the connection between Christian’s life and the FBI investigating really never reaches a full subplot, and just wastes screentime. There’s never a moment where that subplot becomes even remotely necessary. A lot of the film feels like that, like a neuroscientist’s business that Christian visits but doesn’t stay at ends up being extremely important to the plot, but we don’t know how it’s so important if he only spend two hours there as a kid. These problems eventually capsize the film about halfway through.
JK Simmons does a “fact-dump” in the second act that is supposed to catch the audience up and make things more clear, but there’s so much information, most of it inconsequential, that it’s hard to sift through everything to get the relevant parts. It’s obvious that too much was taken on, so the writers didn’t know how to actually handle all of the plot details into one cohesive movie. When the end happens, it’s noteworthy that the film is willing to set up sequels, and perhaps the reason that we got all of this in one film is to do some universe planning, but I just don’t see these actors returning for a second installment, so there’re big problems present.
The end features two twists about character identities that I won’t spoil, but it’s not super surprising, even if it was fun to listen to the audience react. Also, ignore the scene about the funeral and the fallout after, it’s bullshit.
As for the way the movie portrays the character being on the spectrum, I’d rather not get into a political correctness thing in my review, but there’re moments where it clearly adds to the tension and entertainment value because of what Affleck does here, but it equally could be offensive and handled incorrectly to those close to someone who is dealing with the same disability.
Ben Affleck’s performance keeps us going, however, where he uses all of Christian’s ticks and inability to really socialize effectively to add to the constant haze of awkwardness that the movie stuffs into the audience’s head. Scenes with him and an obviously-there-for-sex-appeal Anna Kendrick are hilarious, and I felt bad for laughing, but the film wants us to cringe at the awkwardness in order to make Christian more likable as a hero. He really doesn’t know how to handle a girl coming at him on a couch, I’ll just say that.
I can see how the awkwardness of this would turn a viewer off, but I actually loved it.
The final thing I want to mention is the action, which is the movie’s best quality. It’s filmed well, Affleck does a great job with some of the stunts, and I’m willing to say that his experience doing this and Batman at similar times helped the overall scope of both performances. So, all in all, I can’t fully recommend this because the writing is terribly messy, the plot is everywhere, and the third act is a complete disaster, but I also was entertained for the full two hours. Objectively, I’ll settle with my score that I give most of my other guilty pleasure enjoyments:
The Accountant (2016)
Director: Gavin O’Connor (Warrior, Miracle, Tumbleweeds, Jane Got a Gun)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jon Bernthal, Anna Kendrick, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, and J.K. Simmons
with: John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor, Jean Smart, Alison Wright, Seth Lee, and Robert Treveiler
RT Score: 51%
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