For those excited about Ben Affleck’s return as a leading man and looking forward to a good action-thriller to show off his skills, you’ll just have to keep waiting; The Accountant isn’t it. This is a movie that could have been simplified to “Jason Bourne meets A Beautiful Mind,” yet sports such a complicated, ridiculous plot that it often ends up being its own worst enemy.
We’re introduced to Affleck’s Christian Wolff when he’s just a boy trying to solve a puzzle, something he’s able to do without looking at the picture on the front. We’ll learn that he’s a special kid on the autism spectrum, one who would grow up to be an accountant with incredible mathematic skills. He’d use those abilities to launder money for various criminal organizations while at the same time acting as their hired enforcer who moves in mystery, only known as “The Accountant.”
This Accountant’s obscured presence in pictures with international criminals has raised the interest of the feds in the form of the Treasury’s Crime Enforcement Division run by Ray King (J.K. Simmons), who has tasked his star pupil (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to find the connection with this mysterious man. In order to mask his criminal activities, Christian has been assigned by his handler to take on a real accounting job with an electronics corporation that has had millions of dollars mysteriously disappear. As Christian goes through their books trying to find their lost money, various executives at this company start dying at the hands of another hired killer (Jon Bernthal).
Working from a script by Bill Dubuque (The Judge), director Gavin O’Connor (Warrior) does his best to keep all the different storylines straight, but at a certain point, even he must have thrown his hands up in the air about what a complicated mess the movie eventually becomes while it goes further and further down the rabbit hole. This could probably have been a simple enough thriller about an accountant/killer, but as soon as it brings in the corporate angle and John Lithgow’s presumably corrupt CEO, it adds another needless level of plot rather than just having Christian being pursued by various factions.
Much of the story seems so ridiculous that one might wonder how this project was greenlit, let alone how Warner Bros. were able to market it, mainly since it keeps going to places where it’s hard not to laugh. When Christian meets with his jailed mentor figure, played by Jeffrey Tambor, you’ll have a hard time not yelling “No touching!” at the screen, having seen similar moments on Arrested Development so many times.
Even the idea of the FBI trying to find a mysterious hitman is marred by the fact that it’s the Financial Crime/Fraud Information and Resources (FinCEN), rather than a more appropriate division of the FBI, going after Christian. Instead of having brave federal agents chasing a killer across country, we watch an agent and her supervisor going through various tax forms and books trying to find him. Needless to say, this does not add up to the highest of tension.
Probably a more interesting aspect of Ben Affleck’s character is Christian having Asperger’s and therefore unable to communicate emotions or expected social skills. It makes perfect sense to cast Ben Affleck as an emotionless character since it perfectly suits his humdrum acting style, and he accordingly never goes above a “3” or “4” in terms of temperament. The once seemingly infallible Anna Kendrick also adds another worthless role to her resumé, playing the corporate accountant Christian has to work with to find stolen money, but the two of them have less chemistry than she’s had with other recent leading men.
There are a few saving graces, like the well-choreographed action scenes, which are suitably exciting and necessary amidst so much otherwise dull storytelling. Mark Isham’s score does a lot to make them more effective, too. Despite all the star power, one of the more impressive performances is that of relative newcomer Cynthia Addai-Robinson, who does most of her scenes opposite J.K. Simmons, and makes you pay attention even during the dullest moments in the movie.
The plot, while strange, is still straightforward enough that the movie would have worked better if it didn’t get completely muddled by throwing as many red herrings and flashbacks at the viewer as possible. Also, being so blatantly obvious where things are going just makes it more aggravating once it gets there.It’s fairly obvious all the subplots are leading up to either the feds or Jon Bernthal’s killer (or both) catching up to Christian. The fight with the latter is somewhat satisfying in the fact that we get a chance to watch “Batman” take on “The Punisher,” although for all that build-up, it’s a short-lived fight.
Mileage may vary on The Accountant, but there must have been a better movie that could have been made from this premise.
The Accountant opens nationally on Friday, Oct. 14 with previews Thursday night.