Movie Review: “The Accountant” – Weaponized Autism

Written by Jesse Gelinas October 22, 2016

Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick in The AccountantI think it’s about time we had a serious discussion about Ben Affleck. He has had one of the strangest careers in the history of modern cinema. We’re talking about a man who made a living in Kevin Smith films before suddenly winning an Oscar for writing. Of course then, we get a decade of subpar starring vehicles like Reindeer Games, Pearl Harbor, and Daredevil. And, must we forget Gigli? Yes, we must. After a seemingly neverending carousel of disappointment, he starts to direct. He nails it with Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and then wins Oscars with Argo! If that’s not enough, at 42, he gets to be Batman. A lot of people wrote Affleck off years ago, but the guy has been showcasing some incredible chops these last few years, including a newfound talent for actually picking the right project. Enter The Accountant, an action-thriller from Gavin O’Connor. It’s a solid flick with an impressive cast, and a chance for Affleck to shut up any lingering doubters.

As a boy, Christian Wolff (Affleck) is diagnosed with autism, and recommended to a group home for treatment. is father, a military man, rejects the doctor’s suggestion and decides to raise his son to fight against his condition’s limitations. As an adult, Christian is a mathematical genius, who uses his talents to act as a forensic accountant for criminal clientele spanning the globe. With the Treasury Department hot on his heels he takes on a legitimate client, Living Robotics. While investigating their books, Christian stumbles upon a secret that puts himself, and those around him in danger, and in the crosshairs of a very dangerous man (Jon Bernthal). But Christian has some dangerous skills of his own.

“I’m considered pretty dangerous, myself.”

The Accountant has some flaws. First, it has no less than three completely unnecessary characters, and an entirely unnecessary subplot. Anna Kendrick plays Dana, the closest Christian has to a love interest. She’s a fellow accountant who discovers the discrepancies at Living Robotics that Christian is hired to investigate. Affleck and Kendrick share an odd chemistry, and it certainly brings a few funny moments to lighten up the rest of the film, but it’s honestly not really needed. But, this being Hollywood, you can’t always fault them for bringing in a female lead to balance things out. But The Accountant does it twice. The Treasury investigation is headed by King (J.K. Simmons) and Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). Now, I understand any excuse to get J.K. Simmons in your movie, but the entire Treasury subplot just feels too tacked on and disingenuous to properly jive with the rest of the movie. And the truth is, you could take it out completely and be pretty much unaffected. It mainly serves as exposition to fill in Christian’s life story, but we already have flashbacks for that.

Christian Wolff is more than just an accountant

Not wasted, are Affleck and Bernthal, who seem to be playing two sides of the same coin. Both specialists in their field, single-minded, and dangerous. I only wish Bernthal’s role was bigger, as he’s quickly becoming one of my favourite pleasant surprises to see in the credits. Affleck’s Christian walks the very fine line when portraying a character with a mental disability. It can very easily wander into exaggeration or parody. Affleck keeps it mostly understated, never quite the focus of the performance, but just lingering below the surface, perfectly in keeping with the emotional mask that Christian puts on to deal with people. It’s an honestly impressive turn, and one of the few for Affleck in a long time (at least for films where he’s not directing himself).

“An Accountant. The Accountant. Our Accountant.”

O’Connor’s direction Is tight, but stylish. The violence in The Accountant is swift, brutal, and efficient. Much like 2014’s John Wick, The Accountant boasts a focused, dangerous anti-hero who is such a master, he almost makes violence an art form. If the script was as tight as the direction, this could’ve been a perfect film. As it stands, everything is well made, but there’s just too much. Christian is an intriguing character, and his adventure here is engrossing and tense throughout, but the rest is just noise, detracting from the film’s real strengths.

Ben Affleck in The Accountant

Overall, The Accountant is still a very good film, but would’ve benefitted from either a tighter script, or a different editor. It could easily shave 15-minutes from its runtime, and probably be the better for it. It remains well worth seeing regardless, for Affleck’s thoughtful performance, and the impressive action scenes. The actual accounting scenes aren’t terrible either.

My Rating: 7.5/10

The Accountant theatrical poster

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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