Directed by: Gavin O’Connor
Screenplay: Bill Dubuque
Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J. K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jean Smart, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow.
Based on a screenplay written by Bill Dubuque, The Accountant is one complicated, cracker of a story: flash backs, fight scenes, number crunching montages, loud shots from military grade riffles to the quiet of an accounting office to the chink of cutlery in a jail cafeteria; wry humour, Crime Enforcement agents to stone cold killers to the dynamics family. All combined with the overriding discussion of autism.
There was so much going on it was hard to keep a handle on all the threads.
On the one hand, this is a character driven story about family and autism; on the other, The Accountant is an action-packed crime thriller.
Chris Wolff (Ben Affleck) is an accountant, but not your everyday H&R Block style, CPA certified accountant – Chris is a high functioning autistic who’s a savant when it comes to numbers. He also works for drug dealers and assassins; criminals who call in a guy who’s clean and can uncook their books to find any missing money.
With heat coming from the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division, Chris needs an above-board job. He needs to get under the radar. So when a job to find missing funds from a robotics company comes up, his handler sends him to meet Lamar Black (John Lithgow). But there’s more going here than the ordinary. And Chris shows himself to be more than an accounting whiz – he’s an autistic action hero.
I was pleasantly surprised by the attention to sensory detail: colours of paintings, an eye disappearing through a crack in a door that’s slowly closing; flashes of light and loud music…
Epileptics with a photic sensitivity be warned: the flashing light is bright and about 3Hz – a dangerous but effective addition to the film. But yeah, there should be a warning here!
So, the sensors were certainly entertained and the association with autism and the effect of sensory stimulation on the character were cleverly worked into the story. What I did miss was Ben Affleck’s cheeky grin. There’s a deadpan humour that works well, but the constant blank face of Chris felt a bit forced. People with autism do smile.
I really wanted to love this film as I’m always looking for that thriller that surprises, giving so much more than expected. And although complicated, director Gavin O’Connor did tie the whole story neatly together, but the main character, Chris, was just too incongruent at times.
A strong performance from J.K. Simmons helped pull the story together, but aspects of the film just didn’t quite fit. Putting such emphasis on The Accountant having autism was dangerous territory and requires getting it right. And some aspects of the character grated as they didn’t feel authentic.
I don’t want to give too much away as there’s a lot going here and this is a great story with an interesting message, but getting all the moving parts right felt like a stretch. Everything was there from story to characters to time spent on delivery. And I know it sounds like I’m bagging this film but I’m being harsh because I love a good crime/thriller.
As a series, The Accountant would have been perfection. As is, a cracker of a story that’s so close but not quite for me.
And a grin from Chris would have gone a long way.