The Accountant has all the makings of a brilliant action-thriller film without any of the substance. Starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal and John Lithgow, the film sets out to be reminiscent of films like Jack Reacher, with its action and problem solving aspects. However, while relatively similar, The Accountant has much to learn from other films of its kind.
The film follows the highly functioning autistic and mental calculator, Chris Wolff (Affleck), who works as a certified accountant, tracking internal embezzlement for various criminal organisations as directed by an unidentified voice on his phone. During an investigative assignment for Living Robotics, a state of the art robotics corporation, Wolff meets Dana Cummings (Kendrick), an in-house accountant who had stumbled upon financial discrepancies in the company’s financial ledgers. The usually aloof Wolff, who prefers numbers and solving puzzles over people and relationships, takes somewhat of a liking to Cummings and spends all night uncovering the secrets hidden within the company’s books, hoping to find the person responsible for embezzling money out of the company.
Throughout his investigation into Living Robotics, Wolff was, himself, being investigated by the Financial Crimes Enforcing Network (“FinCEN”) in the Treasury Department, led by FinCEN director, Raymond King (Simmons) and top data analyst, Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). The FinCEN suspected Wolff’s involvement in a number of criminal cases, leading to their frantic efforts to take him down.
The film provides a back story into Wolff’s condition and illustrates the hardships that parents of autistic children go through, as Wolff’s mother leaves their family after being unable to cope. Wolff’s father, who works in the military, refuses to allow Wolff to attend a learning centre, which caters for autistic children, citing that the world will not accommodate for Wolff and therefore he needs to toughen up and fight through rough patches. Through combat training organised by his father, Wolff and his younger brother, Braxton, with whom he had an extremely close bond, picked up military style fighting skills.
One of standout aspects of the film is the graphic depictions of the torment some autistic individuals suffer as they try to cope with the world around them as best as they can. We see the struggles Wolff faces throughout his life and the methods he uses to help him fight through the pain. Ben Affleck plays Wolff well, showing little to no emotion and a lack of interest in anything but solving problems. In fact, Affleck’s acting in depicting an emotionless man is done so well that it acts as a reminder that this is the actor who will be playing the role of Batman, which is disappointing to me as it potentially means that Affleck’s Batman will be as moody, dull and lacking in charm as the actor appears to be in recent years. (Someone mentioned to me that Affleck hardly smiles and looks like a broken man in many interviews and public appearances these days).
Why The Accountant lacks appeal to me and falls short of being in the same league as other action films is in part due to the many assumptions viewers are forced to make in terms of piecing the story together. Apart from Wolff’s background, we don’t receive any real and proper explanation into Wolff’s line of non-accounting work, what motivates him to work on behalf of criminals and whether he can be classified as a ‘good’ guy or a ‘bad’ guy.
The story has several plot holes that would have been ideal to be filled in order to understand the film’s narrative better. After several flashback scenes depicting Wolff and his brother, we are returned to the present day where no mention of Braxton occurs. This was unnerving as clearly there was a story that required exploring in terms of the brothers. Not only that, but Anna Kendrick’s role in the film felt redundant as it felt as if she was nothing more than just a character inserted in the film to act as Wolff’s motivation. With such dry and bland chemistry between the two, it’s hard to come to terms with why Kendrick’s character even motivated Wolff.
Another aspect of the film, which irked me slightly, is the ending. After a build up of the possibility of a big baddie, which Wolff needed to take down, the climax and ending of the film felt lack-lustre and anticlimactic. The main opposition to Wolff turns out to be someone he is exceptionally fond of and vice versa, which is, to be fair, a reasonably good twist. However, the antagonist calling off his men and taking surrender from Wolff leads to a ripple effect of more disappointing plot holes. The anticipation toward the reveal of the big baddie falls flat and the whodunnit aspect that was built up throughout the film simply fizzles out, especially with regard to the FinCEN’s investigation as they essentially give up on upon finding Wolff’s home. Wouldn’t a government agency continue to hunt down their man until he is apprehended, especially where criminals and huge sums of money are involved?
While The Accountant is, to me, a disappointing film I couldn’t wait to get out of, the one thing that the film had going for it is its action sequences. Ben Affleck certainly deserves praise for his work with the combat and gunfire scenes in the film. The filming of the home invasion, in which Wolff takes on a large group of military trained armed menm is fabulous and is the perfect ingredient for action and gun-play enthusiasts. The scene essentially played out like a shooter videogame, which is visually appealing to many, especially to viewers who happen to be avid gamers.
As someone who thoroughly enjoys films with a good plot and well written narrative, I was disappointed at the hype behind The Accountant. Personally, this film was every bit as dull as maths and accounting is to me, except for the action scenes. If you must watch this film, the action is by far the only reason I would recommend the film. Otherwise, save your money and wait for the DVD.