The Accountant (2016)

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“Sooner or later, different scares people.”

I suspect crowds will be drawn to The Accountant because they either know real accountants or bear the job title. Surely, most pilots saw Sully, soldiers went to American Sniper, firefighters fled to Ladder 49. If not members of those fields, people will converge in the theater based on a predisposed inclination from the ones they surround themselves with. Normally we gravitate towards the side we already understand. That is the film’s issue. It tackles an occupation stereotyped as boring and props it up against uninteresting action. I think the film will work and be entertaining for those who see a five foot distance between adjacent cliffs and can still make the jump. Take the defying leap of logic and you’ll be fine. But the movie should be seen as a deconstructed mess of story, packed with massive plot holes and in dire need of a pragmatic person to realize that the jump is entirely unnecessary. The Accountant builds bridges to cross over to the other side and still chooses to ignore their very presence. It recklessly acts on impulse.

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Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) has been written as Jason Bourne without the intrigue. Even though the most recent film in that franchise was an absolute bore, the character’s intentions always remained in focus. Bourne has constant questions; Wolff only provides answers. He’s a highly functioning autistic man, a CPA by day and some sort of hitman on occasion. His freelancing assassinations can never fully be explained or understood; again, if you can ignore detail, this lapse probably becomes moot. Christian crunches numbers for the bad guys and cooks books and kills off anyone who stands in the way of him completing a task. The Accountant admirably takes the time to set up its protagonist’s personality living on the spectrum without presenting believable ranges. We can’t judge Christian’s atypicality, or his reservations, or his suppression. But I have no issue critiquing how his instability and social ineptitude improperly drive his motivations.

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The Accountant would feel more appropriate as a tense, well thought out miniseries. This isn’t binge-worthy material, more so the kind of stuff which would undeniably benefit from a break here and there. A take in the vein of Tom Hiddleston’s recent The Night Manager would work well. Some stories simply require more than 120 minutes to be told. Nothing wrong with that. And yet director Gavin O’Connor seems to be bullied into a corner and battling against all odds to squish three films into one. Part One: Christian Wolff and the sharp Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) investigating the financials for tech firm Living Robotics. Part Two: Treasury Department head and soon to be retiree Raymond King (J.K. Simmons) tracking Christian by blackmailing his eventual understudy and hopeful replacement Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). Part Three: an all too obvious showdown with smooth talking hitman Braxton (Jon Bernthal). There are more loose ends here than a Maypole dance, and they never trot together in step.

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Here’s where things get tricky though. O’Connor knows this movie is pretty bleak; in fact, the best scene shows Christian number-crunching, which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the film. So he takes Bill Dubuque’s nomadic script and inserts pauses for an intentional comedic effect. One woman in my theater found them hysterical, but every single instance finds the audience laughing directly at Christian. He kills a bad guy in front of farm folks, and because he’s autistic, gets up and waves and leaves like nothing happened. We’re not led to laugh at the situation itself; we’re invited to laugh at Christian’s inability to process it. This happens multiple times throughout. O’Connor’s direction isn’t terrible, and even features another steady performance from Affleck, still in Batman mode as he proficiently handles the action scenes. Having said that, The Accountant accumulates plenty of intriguing info without quite finding the correct sum.

“I like incongruity.”

Rating: 2 out of 5

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