Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a math savant with more affinity for numbers than people. Behind the cover of a small-town CPA office, he works as a freelance accountant for some of the world’s most dangerous criminal organizations. With the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division, run by Ray King (J.K. Simmons), starting to close in, Christian takes on a legitimate client: a state-of-the-art robotics company where an accounting clerk (Anna Kendrick) has discovered a discrepancy involving millions of dollars. But as Christian uncooks the books and gets closer to the truth, it is the body count that starts to rise.
The Accountant takes a slightly different path on the whole bred-for-war, secret agent scenario. Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff as a man with Asperger’s Syndrome. Sensitive to sensory and finding it difficult to speak with others, his military father subjected him to harsh practices that will prepare him for both the world and any war. But Christian seems much more content and happy as an accountant, providing a perfect cover after his days of secret assassinations. Does this sound silly? Sure. What thriller isn’t when you get down to the nuts and bolts? And, boy, does this movie get ridiculous with its twists.
Christian exists as an enigma of a hitman, keeping to himself as an accountant with all his weapons neatly tucked away inside a trailer inside a storage facility. His latest target, chosen by an undisclosed female over the phone ala Hitman, is a robotics company. Christian makes his way into the company as an accountant, hired to uncover an error in tax records after a change in management. And he wastes no time in finding this error, digging through decades of records and numbers. He has a genuine love for this job the way he way he spends all night writing down all his findings and bragging with a rare smile to his junior accounting assistant Dana, played by an awkwardly curious Anna Kendrick.
But the numbers game is only half the battle as the other half is, well, the battle. Hired goons start showing up in his town, touting guns with intent to kill. Good thing Christian has been to the Jason Bourne school of taking down bad guys with his efficiency in guns and hand-to-hand combat. Although the script does setup this aspect of Christian’s character early enough, it’s still a rather silly sight to watch this movie go from the tale of a mentally impaired accountant to a full-blown action hero. Separated, these two aspects work rather well. It’s compelling watch Christian become violently frustrated when he can’t finish any project, from a puzzle to an accounting job. It’s also entertaining to watch these action sequences that are fast, violent, smart and pack a lot of grit. But when smashed together, they certainly don’t make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Making the plot supremely goofy is the B-plot of treasury agents played by J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson. As they track down the elusive Christian, who somehow managed to avoid having his photo taken after a dozen recon photos of his dealings, ridiculous twists are revealed about how much Simmons actually knows about Christian. It doesn’t help that this twist is also revealed over a long expository flashback. All the other flashbacks seem to come in bits and pieces, but this one twist stops the movie almost as much as it halts plausibility.
There are a few strange quirks of Christian’s Asperger’s that appears rather ludicrous as well. When Christian first visits the special school for mental disorders, we see the familiar poster of facial expressions on the wall, designed for children to state their current mood that they cannot display. Cut to him all grown up as an accountant and he has this same poster in his trailer. He also recreates these faces on melons that he shoots for target practice. He even uses the exact same smiling face from the poster as the icon of his employer on his smart phone. It’s as if Christian is more of a silly Batman villain with the powers of Asperger’s. It’s strange enough that the expression chart is used as a motif for his assassinations, but it’s even more peculiar in that there’s no explanation for this choice. Does an assassin with Asperger’s really need branding?
The Accountant is a movie I wanted to root for, as it does become a rather strong picture at times. Despite Christian’s Asperger’s going slightly over-the-top at times, there are a handful of scenes that are spot on with some solid acting by Affleck. The action is very intense and expertly shot, as in one scene when Kendrick uses the contents of a bathroom to defend herself from hired goons. It’s just too bad that most of these positives falls to pieces over a pesky plot that appears plucked from a stronger Jason Bourne picture.
You rated this film: 2
Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Classification is to be confirmed by the British Board of Film Classification
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