'The Accountant' is preposterous fun!
PHOTO BY WARNER BROS.
Where is it playing?: Downtown Centre, Park, Stadium 10, Galaxy
What's it rated?: R
What's it worth?: $ Matinee
What's it worth?: $ Matinee
Gavin O’Connor (Tumbleweeds, Miracle Pride and Glory, Warrior, Jane Got a Gun) directs Bill Dubuque’s (The Judge, The Headhunter’s Calling) screenplay about Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck), an autistic math savant who works as an accountant for criminal enterprises worldwide. Meanwhile, the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division led by Ray King (J.K. Simmons) is closing in on Wolff. The film also stars Anna Kendrick, (128 min.)
Glen: If this film’s plot sounds preposterous, that’s because it is, and trust me when I tell you that it gets even more preposterous in the third act, but in the age of Transformers, The Avengers, and X-Men, The Accountant is downright realistic. Why shouldn’t there be a socially awkward genius (Seth Lee as Young Chris) raised with his “normal” brother (Jake Presley) by a career Army single father (Robert C. Treveiler) who taught his kids to fight, shoot, and never be a victim? In a flashback, we see the boys training with an Indonesian Pencak Silat master (Ron Yuan), their father idly reading a newspaper as his boys are bloodied by their trainer, who tells the father they’ve had enough for the day. Nope, the father’s not having it. He wants his boys to know their limits, and they’re not there yet. The plot revolves around a robotics company led by Lamar Black (John Lithgow) that’s hired grown-up Chris (Affleck) to do some forensic accounting and find some missing millions. What he instead uncovers is a plan to take the company public and some internal share-price-inflating shenanigans that make Chris a target of an assassin (Jon Bernthal) and his henchmen, who discover this “accountant” is more than a numbers cruncher … he’s a bone cruncher! We also discover in a flashback that Chris got his criminal accounting expertise while incarcerated with Francis Silverberg (Jeffrey Tambor), who became a state’s witness against the mob. There’s a lot to keep track of, but we also need a love interest. Enter Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), the junior-level accountant who discovered the missing millions, who like Chris becomes a target. All manner of action and, believe it or not, comedy ensue. The script makes good use of Chris’ inherent literalism when he’s asked a question as well as his social awkwardness and the sort of rote “normal behavior” he’s trained himself to use to fit in. He thinks he’s behaving appropriately, but he’s not.
Anna: Chris isn’t good at expressing himself and has learned that sometimes he quite literally has to tell people his intention, such as, “I am happy,” or “I was making a joke,” which is an odd characteristic but also can be endearing. His inability to convey emotion as well as his very structured demeanor lend themselves to his solitary lifestyle, which on the surface seems that of a quiet introvert heavily reliant on routine. Through flashbacks we see Chris and his pre-divorce parents visiting a school for children on the autism spectrum, and when the director offers to take Chris in and work with him, his father refuses immediately, convinced that Chris must assimilate to the world around him and not the other way around. While the manner of Chris’ upbringing probably didn’t help him to normalize, it did turn him into a badass with perfect aim. He has a compulsory need to finish anything he starts, and he practices sensory overload exercises along with medication to try to quell his various difficulties. While there is plenty of action in the film, it read more as a crime drama to me. It also has an element of cat-and-mouse with Treasury Analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) racing the clock to find out who “The Accountant” is and why Agent Ray King has blackmailed her into the task. While its preposterousness was a little distracting, I was pleasantly surprised with the film and with Affleck’s multi-faceted performance.
Glen: One element that makes it engaging is Chris’ moral code, which is what drives him to commit his many murders. In another flashback, we see Chris mow through nine mafia guys, taking the first two out with a steak knife he appropriated from a restaurant down the street and the rest with their own weapons. We learn it’s because one of the mob guys tortured and killed Chris’ friend. Yes, Chris is a criminal and remorseless killer, but he’s got a code, and he won’t hurt an innocent, but cross him at your peril. Like the protagonists of The Equalizer and John Wick, Christian Wolff has his own form of honor. It’s also pretty endearing seeing him try to befriend Dana Cummings. He tells her, “I have a hard time connecting with others, but I want to.” Theirs is an impossible romance, not only because of Chris’ autism, but also his lifestyle. He keeps an Airstream trailer filled with his prize possessions (mostly guns, cash and gold, and fine art) in a storage unit, which he can hook up in 10 minutes and be gone. As I mentioned earlier, in the final act, the proceedings go from implausible to contrived, but if you’re an action-crime-thriller fan and can get past that, this is a pretty fun film and worth a trip to the theater.
Anna: The ending did get pretty absurd, and it seemed to be in an effort to resolve a storyline that I didn’t think really needed it. But that choice aside, the circumstances of the film are a bit hard to believe, yet that’s pretty typical for this type of flick—a little suspended disbelief is required. It fills in the 128-minute run nicely, not feeling drawn out, and it keeps the action coming without feeling rushed. There is, of course, the final showdown, and that’s where they insert the last twist. They do manage to tie up all the loose ends, the sort of neat package that happens much more on screen than in real life. It’s got solid performances, a far-fetched yet still interesting storyline, and plenty of thrills. It’s definitely worth a watch at the theater, or at least as a rental when it comes out.
Split Screen is written by Staff Writer Glen Starkey and his wife, Anna. Comment at email@example.com.