“The Accountant” stars Ben Affleck as an autistic certified public accountant who cooks the books for mobsters and drug dealers. Kendrick, J. K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow also star as Gavin O’Connor directs.
I had wanted to see this for a while, mostly just because Ben Affleck is one of the three actors whom I will pay to see in anything (the other two being Leonardo DiCaprio and Seth Rogen; quite the contrast, I know). The trailer intrigued me further, although as my friend and I joked for the past several months, the commercials really don’t give a coherent description of what the film was actually about. But after finally seeing “The Accountant” I am strongly suggesting you do the same, as it is a very fun, mostly engaging film that is above all else, original.
Affleck played dumb second fiddle to Matt Damon’s math genius Will Hunting in 1997, and Damon went on to star in his “Jason Bourne” films. While Affleck wins at life for now being (the best ever) Batman, he decided while on a break spandex films he would make up for lost time and finally get to be both the math genius and the gun-toting badass all at once.
Affleck’s Christian Wolff is autistic, but he is portrayed in such a nuanced way that even though that is arguably his defining trait, it isn’t what we think about when we watch him onscreen. His Wolff is awkwardly funny, acknowledging other people’s tones and reactions out loud, often to their chagrin. We are shown flashbacks throughout the film that fill in the blanks about his past and how he got to where he is, and while some are pointless filler, others are interesting and develop depth.
Most of this is thanks to a relatively fun script from Bill Dubuque (who co-wrote “The Judge”). The script landed on the Black List a few years back (the record of best unproduced screenplays) and in interviews all the cast praised it, and for the most part it is easy to see why. Each character, even those simply here as plot devices (read: Anna Kendrick’s pointless but dorkably charming Dana) get fleshed out and feel like people, and each gets a scene to give fans of their work something to smile about. Arguably my favorite non-Affleck character was Jon Bernthal’s Brax, an assassin with a dark sense of humor. He is charming, intimidating and just oozes cool, and I just wish he had more scenes.
Everything was going great and for the first hour I really thought this had potential to be the best film of the year; but then things slow down. The most damning sequence is a (no lie) 20 minute exposition segment where J. K. Simmons’ government agent (in his obligatory “one last case before retirement”) reads a laundry list of things Affleck has done and how he became The Accountant. It is interesting at first but then gets tedious and by the end you’re confused why they didn’t just include these scenes as part of the film, not as flashbacks and montages.
The end shootout is also nothing to write home about, especially when the isolated, smaller action sequence sprinkled throughout the rest of the film were so impactful and well shot.
“The Accountant” dares you to take it seriously while at the same time knowing not to do so to itself. It has a surprising amount of laughs (some of which had the audience laughing riotously) and enough accounting and book cooking to be interesting without making you start to head bob. I was a-counting (huh?!) on Ben Affleck to come through in the clutch and he and the rest of the cast delivered a film that is smart, fun and, if I do say so myself, one of 2016’s best.
Critics Rating: 8/10