The Numbers Don’t Add Up With The Accountant


The Accountant is a Good Will Hunting / Batman hybrid with little logic and an utterly terrible performance by leading man Ben Affleck

The Accountant’s plot plays like an Earth-bound retelling of Total Recall: mild-mannered man is actually a super-secret baddie with all manner of methods to kill. Actually that sounds like a Steven Seagal movie, though buying him as an accountant is harder than buying Affleck as one. Despite appreciating director Gavin O’Connor’s past work, The Accountant is messier than its multitude of gunshot wounds to the head.

Christian Wolff (Affleck) is an autistic accountant in league with the nation’s worst criminals. He’s being hunted by two FBI operatives hoping to learn his identity. Wolff finds himself stumbling upon some heavy-corporate fraud that puts the life of a young woman (Anna Kendrick) in danger.

The Accountant came under fire upon release of its first trailer, as it takes the tired trope of the “autistic savant” to extremes. Christian’s introduced at a special camp/home/mountain lodge where his military father and unfeeling mother are trying to deal with their son’s disability. Christian’s father declares the world isn’t all rainbows and puppies, so there’s no need to help Christian manage his disability therapeutically. There’s a gray area here. The script never wants to come down on medical intervention but says Christian “passes” for well-adjusted.

His “quirks” are those commonly seen in movies about autistic characters; he’s precise, unable to socialize, and suffers from OCD. I can’t comment on the film’s authenticity, but as a disabled person who generally rolls their eyes at this stuff….I did, a lot. One line hopes to work around questions about Christian’s issues by saying he’s “high functioning.” The two words that say “We did little research” and serve to allow Christian to drop all pretenses of autism by the end.

Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

Bill Dubuque’s Blacklisted script deals in a lot of concessions; Christian’s autism is danced around for 45 minutes. The main concession is whether Christian is a villain or not. J.K. Simmons’ Ray King character implies that Christian cooks the books for horrible people, drug cartels and warlords. He says Christian works for the worst of the worst which violates Screenwriting 101: Show, don’t tell. As far as we know, the only bad thing is Christian fudges old people’s taxes to get them better returns, like a strip mall Mr. Incredible. Christian’s violence manifests against characters who are already villains, and his foil (played by Jon Bernthal) is open in his villainy.

At 128 minutes The Accountant gets greedy from the word go. It’s not enough to have Christian be the accountant for baddies. He’s also an autistic savant with a special set of murdering skills (more bloodless headshots like Magnificent Seven, ), has the ability to do math better than Will Hunting, and protects Anna Kendrick like The Terminator. Honestly, throw in some “truth, justice and the American Way” and this is an audition for Superman.

The script gobbles up plot details and does little with them. Christian’s chased by the FBI while simultaneously discovering a company, run by John Lithgow, is missing millions of dollars. The missing money leads him to protect Anna Kendrick, match wits with Jon Bernthal and then leave everyone dead or smiling at the end. That doesn’t include a host of flashbacks about Christian’s past. Lithgow watches the entire third act through closed circuit cameras, mimicking my facial expressions throughout the entire movie.

The narrative smorgasbord aside, the acting is subpar. Ben Affleck’s depiction of autism and Aspergers leaves him monotone and lifeless. He’s not acting; he’s barely conscious. Presumably mysterious, Jon Bernthal’s character is a crutch, because to give anything other than the cursory unravels the easily discernible twist. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson are solid, but plagued by twee histories of “good dad, bad cop” and “troubled past needing redemption,” respectively. Jeffrey Tambor wanders in to the Arrested Development set for a few scenes with Affleck.

Seemingly the film’s motivation involves Christian protecting Anna Kendrick’s Dana; his Sarah Connor. Their relationship has a weird “will they, won’t they,” predominately instigated by Kendrick to remove cries of the weird age difference. Kendrick is the only one who passes for human, though her cries of “But you’re an accountant!” are ridiculous. A guy with an arsenal in an Airstream in a storage locker? He’s not an accountant. You’re lucky he isn’t a serial killer. Unfortunately Kendrick disappears in the third act to segue into Gavin O’Connor’s favorite plot device: fractious brotherhood.

As explored in the amazing Warrior, flashbacks show Christian’s relationship with his younger brother. Christian’s brother looks out for him and protects him, but time causes them to drift apart. Considering how many characters in the film, the movie’s “twist” hits you with all the suspense of being shot in the head. I’m saying it’s as plain as the glasses on Affleck’s face.

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The Accountant is an immense failure, but it’s doubtful that will detract audiences. Those in my screening ate up the film’s bizarre humor and disjointed story. Unfortunately a stray one-liner doesn’t make up for the narrative mess, stop-and-go storytelling, and D.O.A. acting.