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Accountant, The (2016)

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Score: 5/10

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, and Action Running Time: 2 hrs. 8 min.

Release Date: October 14th, 2016 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Gavin O’Connor Actors: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, John Lithgow, Jean Smart, Alison Wright

T

hough afflicted with high-functioning autism, Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) has learned to control and overcome many of his adversities through years of training and self-discipline. Now a successful accountant, Wolff works primarily with notorious and dangerous clientele. After being employed by a string of crime lords and gangsters, the skilled mathematician opts for the less hazardous assignment of sifting through old tax records for burgeoning technology company Living Robotics (run by Lamar Black, played by John Lithgow) in order to locate misplaced funds. But when he discovers that more than $61 million has gone missing, and a hit is placed on both himself and the young financial analyst (Anna Kendrick) who first noticed the discrepancies, Wolff determines to protect her and uncover the truth behind the conspiracy.

The anticipated yet regularly indefensible jumbling of chronology is in full swing at the start, picking up in the middle of a shootout that will be revisited on numerous occasions throughout the picture, each time gaining a few more seconds of additional footage to fill in some gaps. The problem with this specifically in “The Accountant” is that it isn’t done to circle back around to an important moment of character identity; instead, it’s just an action scene that ties together several of the players – doing little more than boosting the running time for a supporting role that is nearly inconsequential to Affleck’s leading man. Plus, it takes screentime away from the love story, which is by far the most amusing component of “The Accountant.”

That romance is itself a combination of natural uncomfortableness, believable human connections, and genuinely humorous conversations, all brought about because of the main character’s neurodevelopmental disorder, which drives the first part of the film. The sweetness and the uncommon flirtations are pushed aside, however, for the rest of the project to morph into a thriller – and then an action piece – leaving no room for the rewarding nature of Chris’ initiation or reintegration into romantic love. Hitmen, gangsters, and corporate espionage may be more commercial or bankable, but they’re sad alternatives to a good story – especially when just such a tale was beginning to take shape through the police procedural (or accounting procedural?) elements that highlight a worthwhile mystery of a sympathetic antihero channeling anxieties and abnormalities into a specific skill.

“Sooner or later, ‘different’ scares people.” As the mystery of the man (along with the mysteries of his handler, his pursuers, and his client) is ever so slowly unraveled (the smoke and mirrors routines are frequently exhausting), the true intentions of “The Accountant” become distressingly clearer. It isn’t the thought-provoking tale of an emotionally handicapped man turning his mental misfortune into extreme physical and mathematical/intellectual proficiencies (there’s also a conspicuous message about autism at work), but rather a standard shoot-‘em-up adventure with paramilitary assassins and idiosyncratic henchmen. Wolff never uses his dexterity with numbers and patterns to escape his enemies; instead, it’s his convenient martial arts tutelage and sniper training that come in handy when all of the antagonists are stocky, combat-practiced gunmen. Fortunately, some of the writing displays a hint of cleverness in the form of early references that gain clarity during key exposition towards the conclusion (a dented metal thermos is one such script device), while Chris’ hurdles with communicating effectively to Dana are similarly, eloquently yet wittily constructed. But the climax devolves tremendously – not just quickly but also extremely bumpily – to the point that the intriguing setup will surely be forgotten in favor of the flying bullets and exploding smoke bombs.

– The Massie Twins

 



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