A title like “The Accountant” doesn’t exactly scream action and thrills. Instead it triggers thoughts of financial statements and tax analysis. Not exactly riveting cinema, right? But who says you can’t have a movie with just as many ledgers and spreadsheets as guns and bullets? Okay perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but you get what I mean. The idea is pretty outlandish.
Despite sounding preposterous “The Accountant” is a solid bit of entertainment. It’s a heavily plotted thriller featuring mobsters, hitmen, corporate CEOs, Treasury agents, and of course number crunchers. As it peels back layer upon layer of its story (much of it through flashbacks), it makes a strong effort to cover every base in order to maintain even the smallest level of plausibility. At the same time it’s pretty honest about what it wants to be. It just wants to be a little too much.
Ben Affleck stars as Christian Wolff, a forensic accountant working out of a strip-mall in Plainfield, Illinois. Christian has high-functioning autism which is detailed through a series of childhood flashbacks. It inhibits his social skills and causes him distress if he is unable to carry out a task to its end. But it also contributes to his accelerated comprehension of mathematics and deduction. The film has a surprisingly warm and respectful touch in its handling of autism and its effects.
Here’s where things take a twist. As an accountant Christian does more than just help farm families with their tax returns. He also traces insider financial fraud for some of the world’s biggest criminal organizations. This attracts the attention of Ray King (J.K. Simmons) of the Treasury Department who blackmails a young Treasury agent (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) into helping locate and identify the man known only as “The Accountant”.
Christian is given his assignments by a mysterious Siri-like voice over the phone. He’s sent to audit Living Robotics after the company’s accountant Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) discovers discrepancies with their financial numbers. Christian must maneuver through the relationships of the company’s CEO (John Lithgow), his sister and associate (Jean Smart), and his best friend and company CFO (Andy Umberger). Christian’s discoveries thrusts him and Dana into a web of corporate corruption with violent reverberations. And with his life in jeopardy, Christian reveals yet another layer to his character – a much more lethal layer.
Director Gavin O’Conner’s previous two films couldn’t be more different – the surprisingly great MMA family drama “Warrior” and the not so good Natalie Portman western “Jane Got A Gun”. With “The Accountant” he has a lot to juggle, more than in his previous two films combined. For the most part he keeps the many moving parts and duel storylines in sync. At the same time we get a few too many conveniences that we are supposed to buy into. It also relies too heavily on the flashbacks, most likely a result of simply having too much story to tell.
By the film’s end you almost get the sense that they are teasing a franchise. Several pieces are put in place that invite a sequel. “The Accountant” does plenty right – a good cast with good performances; bursts of intense well-shot action (occasionally laced with bits of dry humor); a dense but thoughtful story. Give me more of that and I will come back for another movie. But here’s a thought, maybe not so thickly plotted next time. More isn’t always better.
VERDICT – 3.5 STARS