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
I made a joke when I wrote about this that you can throw Christian Wolff into the rarefied air of Jason Bourne, James Bond, John Wick, Bryan Mills, and Robert McCall lol.
I think you hit it on the head. If this were more focused (it’s a lot of things, a drama, action, character study, even romance), this would have been awesome. With that said, it’s still good, but it did lose me in the 2nd half. I think it was the overlong JK Simmons exposition that did me in.
Great points. It’s so close to being great. Still it pulled me in and I can see myself hopping into another.
I ended up liking it despite its ridiculousness. The strong performances from the cast helped a lot and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of it in the future.
Absolutely. Despite its nuttiness it was really entertaining.
I enjoyed this – it is not without mistakes but a good action film. Kendrick was for once not annoying, and I enjoyed her in a different role than she usually takes on
It really surprised me. Didn’t quite know what to expect but it pulls off what it is aiming for. Not sure if we will get another one but I would be up for it.
Great review Keith! I had some fun with this one, I think you enjoyed it more than I, but it was the plot that got a bit too much for me in the end.
There is definitely a part of your brain that needs turned off especially the further it goes. Still, it was surprisingly good.
It definitely reminded me how much I enjoy seeing Ben Affleck on screen, he’s a brilliant actor!
I agree. I think Affleck gets overlooked and sometimes overly scrutinized. He’s quite good especially when given good material.
I agree it was an oberly deep plot in my opinion, I had to rewatch it to actually understand everything! Great review though…
Thanks a lot. I wouldn’t mind rewatching it at some point. It pulled out just enough to keep me hooked. I’m hoping they give it another whirl.
I was disappointed with this when I saw it in theaters, but when I watched it again on DVD I enjoyed it a lot more Predictable, but a solid watch. I’m glad you liked it too.
I was surprised by it. Completely dismissed it at the theater. Can’t really say I missed something big. But I am glad to have caught up with it on DVD.
Nice review, I may give this a look. Sounds good enough.
It’s fun. It has some old school elements to it I think you’ll enjoy. Nothing groundbreaking but…well…fun.
I can live with fun. I don’t expect every film to be something groundbreaking.
This was entertaining enough, but I’m not sure I’d want to see it get a franchise as they seemed to tease, like you said. A good one-time watch, but not worth revisiting. Excellent writing, as always, Keith.
Thanks! I see where you’re coming from. I guess I would say I’d be interesting in revisiting that world but with reservations. Ultimately I’m glad I saw it. At the same time I’m glad I got into no rush to do so.
I really enjoyed this film despite finding its languid pacing did it a disservice. Affleck was good and Kendrick is always watchable; the second half kinda veered off a bit too much for my liking, but otherwise it was quietly solid. I doubt a franchise is in the offing but as an earlier commenter suggested, perhaps getting Neeson’s Taken character, Damon’s Jason Bourne, Reeves’ John Wick and Affleck’s Christian Wolff into the same film. Wowwee, would I watch that.
Same here. I think I would watch another. I do question the reality of the sequel though. Affleck seems to have a lot of irons in the fire.
I found The Accountant to be one of the more underrated movies from last year. Great? No. But good, pulpy awesomeness. And I actually liked the pace. The whole movie reminded me, for some reason, of a ’50s Western, especially in the way it treated it’s characters.
That’s an interesting take on it. I honestly had no idea what to expect going in. Really glad I took time to watch.