Directed by: Gavin O’Connor
Premise: An autistic accountant (Ben Affleck) runs an innocent looking tax preparation business while extending his services to criminal organizations. As the Treasury Department closes in, the accountant begins auditing the books of an apparently innocuous robotics company.
What Works: When disabled or special needs characters are portrayed in movies their conditions are often presented in an exploitative way. Even well intended movies can fall into this trap and portray their characters as martyrs or as vehicles of redemption for the unafflicted people around them. To its credit, The Accountant does not do this. The film features an impressive central performance by Ben Affleck in the title role. Even though he is a mathematical savant he isn’t a saint. Affleck’s character has a knack for numbers and seeing patterns but he is still a man with depth and flaws. Among the more interesting aspects of the film and of Affleck’s performance are the little details. He is a man who has trouble connecting and empathizing with other people but he clearly wants to and Affleck’s performance has many subtle moments in which he reveals those human desires. The Accountant also succeeds as a vigilante action film. This title character is revealed to be more than a bean counter; he ingratiates himself into criminal organizations, uncooks their books, and then anonymously exposes the criminals to the authorities for prosecution. He’s also something of an action hero who has military caliber training in firearms and hand-to-hand combat. It’s a loony premise but the filmmakers handle it right so that it is credible within the context of the movie. The action sequences, although not especially innovative, are generally well done. Director Gavin O’Connor keeps the scope of the action limited, much like the first entry in the Jason Bourne series, and that maintains the movie’s credibility.
What Doesn’t: The Accountant is a classic example of too much plot getting in the way of the story. The film has a compelling premise but it is saddled with an overwhelming amount of exposition. The narrative is frequently brought to a halt in order for the filmmakers to dump a lot of background information about the characters. The Accountant has enough characters and subplots for a television series including a US Treasury official played by J.K. Simmons and an analyst played by Cynthia Addai-Robinson, a criminal accountant played by Jeffrey Tambour, as well as the robotics company CEO played by John Lithgow, and that business’s accountant played by Anna Kendrick. None of their stories are told very well nor is anyone characterized in a meaningful way. Simmons’ character is trying to discover the identity of the accountant but his search gradually makes less sense as it’s revealed that they are collaborating. Someone at the robotics company is up to financial shenanigans but with no apparent end game. Kendrick is especially underutilized. She’s intended to provide the movie with a love story and while the filmmakers resist giving into the clichés they also don’t do anything else with her or their relationship. The Accountant is organized in a nonlinear fashion. This is done to tell the backstory of the title character which involves even more cast members, in particular the family of Affleck’s character. It’s all too much and the movie is dragged down by the overabundance of storylines. The film isn’t really building toward its conclusion because its attention is so diverted among the various characters and subplots. The film includes a group of mysterious assassins who are killing their way through the clientele of Affleck’s character. This ends with a big shoot out that culminates with a very stupid twist ending.
Bottom Line: The Accountant has a good performance by Ben Affleck but it gets lost amid its plethora of subplots and characters. This is an interesting idea that is poorly executed. But The Accountant is the kind of film that could be spun off into a more successful television show.
Episode: #620 (November 6, 2016)