Movie Review: The Accountant (2016)

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2 Stars
The Accountant (2016)

The Accountant (2016)


Director: Gavin O’Connor

Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons

Synopsis: An autistic financier for the underworld finds that his life is in danger when he comes close to uncovering who is embezzling funds from a high-tech robotics company.

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Gavin O’Connor and screenwriter Bill Dubuque freshen up the assassin-for-hire genre with The Accountant, an absorbing thriller which might perhaps have been more satisfying had it not tried so hard to appeal to all four quadrants of the movie-going public.   The title character is Christian Wolff, a high-functioning autistic with a God-given knack for mathematics and a skill for killing, learned courtesy of the father who raised him and his brother when he and their mother, unable to cope with her son’s tantrums, parted company.  Wolff is a socially awkward loner who betrays little emotion, and is played by Ben Affleck  (Runner Runner, Suicide Squad) with no sense of irony regarding the criticism he’s faced for his wooden performances in the past.  Affleck’s a better actor than he’s given credit for, and he avoids overplaying the condition while remaining finely attuned to the character traits of those with autism.

Wolff’s modest accountancy practice is a front for his real business, which is providing financial services for organised crime syndicates for whom the services of mainstream accounting firms are not an option.   He’s careful to conceal his true identity, both from the criminals he works for and the law agencies that are invariably on the trial of his clients, but his apparent importance has now caught the attention of Ray King (J. K. Simmons – Contraband, Zootopia), the soon-to-be retired director of financial crimes at the Treasury Dept.   King allocates the task of uncovering the mysterious accountant’s true identity to promising young agent MaryBeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson – Star Trek Into Darkness), on the understanding that if she fails to do so in that time, he will condemn her to a prison sentence by exposing her criminal past to the Dept.

Even allowing for King’s insistence on secrecy, the threat of jail time for Medina is just one of a number of extraneous plot details which prove to be amongst The Accountant’s few flaws.   Advised by his unseen female adviser that he needs a legitimate contract to deflect unwanted attention, Wolff finds work with Living Robotics, a high-tech company manufacturing fully functioning prosthetics for wounded military and accident victims, which has been alerted by Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick – 50/50, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates), one of their young accountants, to a possible syphoning of funds.  However, immediately after making a breakthrough in his investigations, Wolff is distressed to find himself dismissed by Lamar Black (John Lithgow – Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Interstellar) following the apparent suicide of the company’s CFO, who felt he was suspected of being behind the embezzlement.   However, we know that the diabetic CFO was actually forced to take an overdose of insulin by hired assassin Brax (Jon Bernthal – Rampart, The Wolf of Wall Street), and that Dana and Wolff are next in line to receive his deadly attentions.

It’s a shame – though no surprise – that The Accountant fails to maintain the high quality of its opening act, but there’s still much to admire from O’Connor’s movie, not least of which is the clear commitment of a strong cast.  It’s the older members – including Jeffrey Tambor (Girl Interrupted, Tangled) as Wolff’s one-time mentor – that make the biggest impression, although Kendrick makes a refreshingly down-to-earth partner for Affleck, and Bernthal a worthy adversary.   The film does become a little bogged down in detail in its final act, and requires a heavy exposition dump to tie up the loose ends, but The Accountant is otherwise a surprisingly intelligent and gripping thriller.

(Reviewed 2nd November 2016)





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