MPAA Rating: R/Genre: Action-Thriller/ Stars: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J. K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow, Jean Smart, Andy Umberger, Alison Wright, Robert C. Treveiler, Mary Kraft, Gary Basaraba, Fernando Chien, Seth Lee, Jake Presley, Izzy Fenech/Runtime: 128 minutes
I feel it should be said that oftentimes when an actor decides to take on a movie there are usually a few end results that we can count on. Namely the movie was good yet the actor was miscast, the movie was good and the actor was on-point, and also the movie was not as good as it could have been yet the actor still managed to give a fairly good performance. The reason I bring this up is because in the long gone year of 2016, Ben Affleck managed to be in three distinct slices of cinema that actually fulfilled at least two of those end results. Indeed say what you will about how much of a mess both Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad turned out to be, but at the same time there is no denying that Ben Affleck’s turn as Bruce Wayne/ Batman in both of those slices of cinema was a highlight in them (even if he was only in Suicide Squad for 10-15 minutes at most). Thankfully for my ulcer and I, this review is not about either one of those slices of cinema. Instead this is a review about the third slice of cinema Affleck made in 2016 in the form of an action-thriller known as The Accountant and it may not have gotten the best reviews when it first came out, but you know what dear reader? This slice of cinema is honestly not that bad. Sure it’s narrative has some moments in it that may see your eyebrow raise like Dwayne Johnson’s in disbelief and sure there are some other flaws to be found scattered throughout its 2 hour-plus runtime. Even with those in mind however, there is no denying that this slice of cinema is still well-made behind the camera and the acting from the obviously talented cast (including Affleck in the titular role) is really not that bad. Suffice it to say that The Accountant might not be the say-all, end-all of the action thriller genre of movie magic, but it is a highly engaging ride all the same and sometimes that’s really all a movie needs to be plain and simple.
The plot is as follows: The Accountant gets its riveting saga underway by focusing on a guy by the name of Christian Wolff. A man who, despite externally presenting himself as quite the eccentric and closed-off type, is also an individual who has a fairly significant secret or two hidden up his shirt sleeves. Namely that despite being someone who suffers from a severe degree of autism that started making itself apparent when he was a kid, Christian is a mathematical whiz who possesses remarkably high degrees of both brilliance and concentration. Yet instead of doing what Dustin Hoffman chose to do in the slice of cinema Rain Man and go to Vegas with Tom Cruise and make quite a bit of money with his talents and then proceed to walk away into the sunset we see that Christian has decided to go down a different route. Namely that he instead utilizes them in combination with combat and firearm training from his father who was a career military man in order to make a living as a sort of mercenary finance whiz for hire that traverses the planet in order to aid some of the most dangerous people and organizations known to man in getting to the bottom of any problems and/or complications that may show up in their books so to speak. To that end, we see that through his quasi-sorta front company ZZZ Accounting, our fairly emotionless yet quite lethal hero one day receives what looks like, for all intents and purposes, a run of the mill accounting assignment from a renowned tech organization known as Living Robotics to look over some complications in their books that have sprung up and subsequently caused the company upper hierarchy a wee bit of pause in their attempts to take the company public. Thus we see that, with the reluctant aid of an upbeat employee within the organization by the name of Dana Cummings, our hero is able to use his talents to make his way through the company’s records in mere hours and finds the problem ailing the company. However, it is also at this point where things start becoming complicated courtesy of people tied to the company as well as Christian’s investigation into the books start winding up being mysteriously bumped off left and right. Thus with an enigmatic hit man by the name of Brax hot on their trail, we see our hero and Dana must go on the run in order to figure out why they’re being hunted, who is behind it all, and just how (if possible) they can survive this nightmare and retake control of their lives…..
Now right off the bat, I should point out that there are things behind the camera that are a bit of a mess. This is especially seen in the fact that right from the word go, we are dropped in the middle of a brutal gun battle taking place in a safe house of some kind yet never once are we shown who is dispatching guys left and right thus operating as a sort of hint on the part of the helmer that a twist will sooner or later make itself apparent. As a result, we see this place this film in a weird position since yes the narrative is riveting, the world of the film is quite distinct, the characters are wonderfully enigmatic yet fairly well drawn, and the action beats are exciting, but it all comes at the cost of the movie having to keep fairly mum on a lot of things. Yet the moment certain things start coming to light, we see that the sad truth behind quite a few of the twists contained within are that they either aren’t really all that surprising or, in the case of one, just plain doesn’t really make a whole lot in the realm of sense. Along with that, I also feel that the sub-plot of the two federal agents trying to hunt our main hero down really wasn’t all that necessary. Yes the performances given by J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson as those two characters are good make no mistake, but the fact remains that, aside from one moment which I shan’t spoil here their sub-plot in this film, really doesn’t overlap with the main character at all. Yes I know there are movies that have done this kind of thing well, No Country for Old Men for example, but it really does feel like it was added in to help pad out the runtime in a lot of aspects. With that said though, there are positives behind the camera that I can definitely point out. For starters, there’s the fact that this slice of cinema has action beats that are both very well shot and delightfully potent in equal measure. Indeed the fact that Affleck did this around the same time as Batman is a huge positive since it meant he could take on quite a bit of the more action-rooted moments instead of needing a stunt double. As a result, we see that this decision is able to give quite a bit of believability to the moments where he makes his way through bad guys with skill, precision, and more than just a couple of shots to the head. I also really appreciated the fact that this slice of cinema is in possession of a musical score that creates a wonderfully mysterious yet also electronic energy just under the surface of the ever-growing in terms of edge-of-your-seat goings-on, which helps to make this slice of cinema one that is the best kind of slow-burn satisfying possible. Finally, we also see that this film’s helmer, one Gavin O’Connor, does make the terrific creative choice to give this slice of cinema a brilliantly on-point enigmatic 70s-style to everything right down to having the film be shot on 35mm. A creative choice that, when partnered up alongside filters that drench this slice of cinema in copper and blue, gift this film with immersive and pitch black darkness for our characters and any secrets they may be keeping close to the vest to reside in fairly well.
Of course it should be noted that for all the flaws present in the various departments behind the camera, the performances given by the clearly-talented group of performers in front of the camera do manage to make up for those flaws fairly well. This *of course* starts with Ben Affleck in the titular role and honestly he is absolutely fantastic in this. Yes I know that Affleck is a performer who is known for bringing a very subtle and restrained attitude and yes I know there are some parts he has played where this didn’t exactly work, but here in this slice of cinema it actually functions as a significant positive. That’s because the character of Christian Wolff is not one known for emoting or passionately declaring his feelings at any given moment due to his distinct mental peculiarity. Instead, he is very much a blank slate math whiz who can solve math equations in minutes that would take some of us a heck of a lot longer to solve, writes his calculations on glass windows in a manner similar to Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind…..and also every so often has no qualms about shooting some people point blank in the head without even so much as blinking. Suffice it to say that the character of Christian Wolff may be what would happen if you put John Wick and Good Will Hunting into a cinematic blender, but there is no denying that Affleck takes this character and really makes him his own. Now I know that there are some people who may be a bit surprised to see Anna Kendrick show up in a slice of cinema in this and after seeing the trailer I would definitely have to say I agree with you. Yet after seeing the movie I must say that I honestly really didn’t mind seeing her in this since not only is she supposed to be kinda sorta the audience representative in the world of this film, but also she manages to bring to the film a much needed sense of humanity that it so desperately needs. Suffice it to say it might be an odd casting choice, but it’s one that ultimately works to the film’s benefit rather than as a detractor. We also see that besides the aforementioned duo that this film makes the choice to populate this slice of cinema with several co-star roles that are also of note. This starts with Jon Bernthal in the role of the enigmatic hitman Brax who is hunting our heroes and honestly he’s really freaking good in this movie. I mean not only does he nail the moments *of course* where he has to engage in some fisticuffs with various characters, but this guy is easily one of the best in the industry of movie magic in the past 10 years easily when you need someone to play a character who can best be described as an affable homicidal maniac. A concept incidentally that fits this character to a t. Even with that in mind however, there is one thing that I did find to be a bit problematic with this character and it’s the fact that literally as soon as he showed up on screen I knew right where his arc in this was going to go. Suffice it to say that when you also factor into the mix fairly good performances from such screen icons as the always enjoyable John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor, and J.K. Simmons (who seems like he is playing a moustache-less and working as a U.S. Fed version of Commissioner Gordon in this) there is no denying that this slice of cinema from an acting standpoint is by no means in the red (pun intended)
All in all dear reader is The Accountant a perfect slice of cinema? Oh heck no. Not even close. At the same time however is this slice of cinema a terrible film that has absolutely nothing about it that is even remotely worth recommending? I wouldn’t say that either to be honest. Indeed make no mistake yes you will most likely be able to see a lot of the twists coming from a mile away and yes there is a subplot that maybe didn’t need to be part of this movie, but the action is well-shot, the rest of the film is made fairly well, and the cast is all actually really good in their respective roles. Therefore, The Accountant might not be the cinematic windfall you may think it to be, but by no means is it also one that is about to declare itself a complete and utter loss either. Rather, it’s just one that aims to be as entertaining as it possibly can and in that regard it’s a fairly worthy effort. Make of that therefore what thou will dear reader. On a scale of 1-5 I give The Accountant “2016” a solid 3.5 out of 5.