By Joey McClure, Staff Writer
I do enjoy well-executed action films because they encompass the three pillars of American cinema — sex (usually), spectacle and violence.
“The Accountant,” directed by Gavin O’Connor, barely hits one of these elements, violence, which is not necessarily a criticism. But the fact the film has maybe 20 minutes of intense action in its two hours is telling of the movie’s priorities.
Written by Bill Dubuque, “The Accountant” is overly obsessed with exposition. The film spends most of its time setting up two plots. The first is about Christian Wolfe (Ben Affleck), a certified public accountant who has mostly overcome his childhood autism. Wolfe uses his strip mall accounting office as a cover for his consulting services, finding internal embezzlement in crime organizations.
Wolfe’s upbringing is told through a series of flashbacks that show not only his struggle with autism and his prodigious mathematical skills, but also his abusive, militaristic father’s impact on him and his little brother.
The second plot follows Raymond King (J.K. Simmons), the director of financial crimes at the Department of the Treasury. He blackmails Treasury analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) into searching for a man he calls “the accountant,” who has helped criminal organizations around the world find embezzled funds.
Although these plots are interesting separately and seem promising at first, they never quite connect like I thought they would. In fact, by the time the credits rolled, I didn’t see a reason for the second plot to exist at all.
This is part of the problem with “The Accountant.” It boasts an overly complicated plot for no reward. The film will surprise the audience from time to time because it has a number of twists throughout, but even then, some of them are so remarkably unrealistic that they become laughable.
“What are the chances of this ever happening?” one character asks after an unlikely coincidence.
Wolfe starts, “Statistically speaking the chances are…”
I can answer this question. Zero. There is a zero percent chance of any of this ever happening.
After the movie has set the stage, things finally start to happen. To hide him from King’s pursuits, Wolfe’s associate, who is only heard through a computerized voice on the phone, sends him to do a legal assignment to find $61 million of missing funds at a prosthetic manufacturer known as Living Robotics.
Here, Wolfe is introduced to the owner of the company, Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow), and the romantic interest of the film, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), an employee that found the accounting error for Living Robotics. Right as Wolfe discovers the truth of Living Robotics’ discrepancy, he and Dana are pursued by hitmen headed by a confident leader (Jon Bernthal).
Even with these confrontations, the film lacks action, and I’m not referring to the genre. I mean acts taken by a character that push the plot forward. “The Accountant” is so soaked with the idea of developing its characters through exposition or flashbacks that it becomes too soggy to enjoy. When the film ends, not much has happened because it took so much time setting everything up.
“The Accountant” also presents a schizophrenic variety of tones. One moment, Wolfe will be experiencing a dark flashback of his father commanding a martial arts master to beat him and his brother to a bloody pulp, and the next moment, Wolfe will be solving an accounting discrepancy in a montage reminiscent of “A Beautiful Mind.” There is nothing wrong with a film utilizing different moods, but this one is all over the place.
There are some things I like about “The Accountant.”
For one, the script has interesting characters, some more fleshed out than others. Christian Wolfe is an interesting take on the action movie protagonist. His autism impairs his ability to effectively communicate to other people, creating these awkward, comedic moments, especially between himself and Dana Cummings. They ultimately end up bonding over their accounting professions, which I saw as fitting.
Some of the characters aren’t as strong, however. None of the antagonists’ motivations are explained, which bothers me. I couldn’t understand how some of these characters became so wickedly evil.
Another positive element of the film was the performances. Nobody was spectacular, but I thought the film was casted perfectly. Ben Affleck played the autistic protagonist well, and J.K. Simmons always excels in an authoritarian role.
Ultimately, “The Accountant” starts as a promising movie, but it gets lost in explaining its complicated premise through exposition and flashbacks. By the end, the audience will ask, “What’s the point?”