As Ben Affleck stumbles through the action hero phase of his career, we are exposed to the blazing trail of Hollywood filler left in his wake.
Who does America hate? Whoever it may usually winds up on the front page of Reddit, or CNN in 2016’s case. Sometimes they end up as the subject of this week’s edition of ’empathy for a mass murderer’ starring Ben Affleck. The Accountant and director Gavin O’Connor are here to deliver the goods in the form of an action film that feels like a giant waste of talent.
Affleck is our accountant, a high-functioning autistic who doubles as an assassin and fakes books for cartels. His family had a tough time between his obsessive puzzle solving, his sister’s extreme tantrums — caused my a more severe case of a similar disorder — and his seemingly normal brother’s complicity in it all. These flashbacks are often triggered by a traumatic plot point, or even just when the accountant has time for a little shut-eye. When the final cards get played you realize this isn’t half-baked, just convoluted to the point of hilarity.
Our lead man is convinced by his mysterious compatriot, whose voice comes in through some unknown means into the diegesis, to take up some legal work for once, in order to keep the feds off his tail. She’s too late, of course. J.K. Simmons (no point in distinguishing between his characters at this point, the man simply is) works at the department of treasury and is already blackmailing up and coming Analyzer Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) who heretofore will be referred to as Agent. A lower level employee Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) has found a hole in her company’s books and the higher-ups brining in the accountant to double-check. What they cannot account for are The Accountant’s precision and weakness for girls for love math.
A fair share of The Accountant is expository material, the aforementioned flashbacks making up a majority of this through the first half. As an action movie, The Accountant does not has much screen time. A midpoint shoot out and an extended climax are the most we have to work with here and they aren’t bad. The filmmaking is frenetic, the violence — sheer murder here, not just neck snaps — emphasized the neuroses of our accountant. One bullet in the head just to make sure they are dead. These sequences just don’t nearly make up enough of a film that, for all intents and purposes, has a spine strong enough to hold up an action packed adventure, but not much more substantive than that.
The Accountant doesn’t attempt to be more. The Accountant simply is and for all it’s lackluster character work still feels it deserves to pull the punches that it attempts. Mystery and intimacy are hard to juggle, especially for a screenplay whose end goal is to trick and expects gasps and ‘wows’ from the crowd but (in my screening) was met with sighs and laughter. Perhaps there is a point to be pulled from the wreckage here. Hell, a minute of the film plays like a PSA aimed at parents who are dealing with raising with autistic signs. As if to say “your daughter can be anything she wants, even a high functioning sociopath,” or better yet “screw this up and your son will grow up to be a killing machine.” It’s hard to place whether this can be a function of the action movie or the melodrama The Accountant is, or if this film upon reflection falls into another unknown category. I won’t be sticking out the second time through to find out however, but encourage a critic with a little more chutzpah to give me a detailed report by next Monday.
The Accountant comes to theaters October 14th.