Ben Affleck’s minimalistic dialogue makes an example out of the saying, ‘less is more’ in his very stoic and drawn back performance in The Accountant. For a film billed as an ‘action thriller’, it functions more as a drama expository with action scenes in between to drive its plot points. But don’t interpret that statement in a negative connotation whatsoever because those sequences actually add layers to the characters which isn’t a very common thing to do. This is definitely not a film that everyone will enjoy because of the choices the director makes in certain parts of the movie which makes it more disjointed as a whole
Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is mathematics savant who has an acute affinity for numbers rather than people. He has more in common with Mozart or Einstein than he has with the likes of us. But even with his extraordinary intellect, he struggles with autism at a young age and his condition makes him susceptible to loud noises, flashing strobe lights and the need to finish something he started. He will react in an ultra-violent and near untameable way if he is triggered by the following things.
As an adult now, Christian is without family as he runs his own cover up small accounting firm in a quaint little town while raking in the big moolah through bookkeeping for clandestine criminal organizations. With the government closing in on uncovering his true identity, Wolff takes on a legitimate client – Living Robotics, operated by Lamar Black (John Lithgow). As he goes on to fix the numerical storm the company has brewed up, he finds a discrepancy which puts the lives of the people he care about in danger.
Along the way, it is known or revealed that Wolff has the desire to connect with people at an emotional level but is unable to do so due to his inability to empathize with the feelings of others. While we see that form of humanity subtly seep into him through the intimate interactions he has with Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), a fellow accountant, it never fully develops into something worthwhile for him. Which is a pity because witnessing the battle with his code of honour and moving away from his usual lines of direct dialogue had the potential of releasing the dormant promise of transforming his character into something of greater complex than it already is.
Coming fresh off from the fight with Superman in BvS, Affleck’s fight scenes were unsurprisingly brutal and hard-hitting to watch. We see how he acquired his special set of skills through glimpses into his past when his father would take him and his brother to Jakarta where he would learn to fight. The flashbacks were arguably the most compelling moments as we get to learn about how Christian became the cold-blooded assassin he is today despite his disabilities. I would have loved for the film to delve deeper into the relationship between the 3 of them, especially because we don’t know much about his brother who was a mainstay in the early part of his life. A wider scope of flashbacks such as Wolff’s uncanny weapon proficiency and the honing of his skills would have rounded up his back story perfectly.
Our treasury detectives of Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) and Ray King (J.K. Simmons) were unnecessarily central to the story primarily because their motivations were not very clearly drawn out to convince us of why there are in the chase for Wolff. The show seems to slow down and take the back seat whenever they come around. More often than not, they feel disconnected from the actual story happening. The final act’s verbal diarrhoea narrated by them did tie up loose ends in the story nicely and make sense of all the holes, but it just goes to show how many plots and sub-plots this movie has going for it that it can feel unfocused at times.
The Accountant watches like something which could have very easily taken the ‘John Wick’ route and I applaud it for not going down that path. Gavin O’Connor took the time to carve out characters for us and to make the story sophisticated for its genre rather than straightforward. I wished however that there could be a greater balance between action and expository which would make Ben Affleck’s life – part time accountant and part time bad ass more intricately woven together.
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor (Jane Got a Gun, Warrior)
Written by: Bill Dubuque
Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow
Running time: 128 minutes