The greatest sin committed by Gavin O’Connor’s The Accountant is that Jeffrey Tambor plays an incarcerated man and not once is he shown enjoying an ice cream sandwich. Just a little nod to Arrested Development would go a long way and would not feel too out of place in a thriller as tonally muddled as The Accountant. Speaking of Tambor, The Accountant boasts a stunningly accomplished cast for a film that never feels like anything more than an inconsequential genre piece. Present, in addition to Tambor, are star Ben Affleck, J.K. Simmons, Anna Kendrick, Jon Bernthal, Jean Smart, and John Lithgow. The movie would be better off if it did not try to be anything more than an inconsequential genre piece. O’Connor made on of the last decade’s great genre movies, the 2011 mixed martial arts movie Warrior, and seems capable of doing it again, but he unfortunately wants more for The Accountant, a movie with a definitively silly plot that nevertheless wants to be taken very seriously.
Affleck is the titular CPA, an autistic man who, as a youth, was trained in the various arts of war by his military officer father who feared that others make try to take advantage of his condition. In addition to his combat training, Affleck’s unnamed character (he goes by the alias “Christian Wolf” here), was also trained in the art of accounting by Tambor’s former Mafia bookkeeper, becoming the world’s foremost expert in crunching numbers and skulls. The Accountant earns big money freelancing for various criminal interests, turning his fists and considerable arsenal (does this mysterious hero have a secret room with a whole lot of guns in it? Of course he does. Twist: It’s an Airstream.) on any of his unsavory clientele who might violate his personal code of ethics. The Accountant’s exploits have attracted the attention of Treasury Department Big Wig Ray King (played with typical good humor by Simmons) who puts wunderkind analyst-with-a-past Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) on the case, hoping to uncover the identity of the ass-kicker in nerdy wire frames before he can strike again.
The hero finds his services retained by a company specializing in high-tech prosthetics owned by Lithgow’s cuddly tech-genius, trying to uncover the source of a bookkeeping discrepancy discovered by Kendrick’s adorable, less capable, corporate accountant. This is where The Accountant goes off the rails tonally. The scenes between Affleck and Kendrick play like a workplace rom-com with Kendrick’s doormat-y flibbertigibbet trying to break through the shell of Affleck’s cold, socially-awkward nerd. A socially-awkward nerd who happens to be preternaturally gifted at murder. The two of them soon finds themselves on the run from an army of mostly faceless mercenaries lead by Jon Bernthal’s rival assassin (Bernthal, as ever, is the best thing in the move), hunkering down in a fancy hotel and sharing stories of childhood. The love story never pans out (sorry if that’s a spoiler), which is just well as the relationship plays less like potential lovers and more like big brother and kid sister, largely due to the thirteen years and over a foot of height that Affleck has over Kendrick.
The Accountant’s raison d’etre is likely to create a Jason Bourne-type character for Affleck. While the film is not as good as the first three Bourne films, it is at least the equal of this year’s Jason Bourne, and the titular character is, at this point, much more interesting than the intentionally characterless Bourne. The film’s secondary objective is to raise autism awareness, an effort as clumsy as it is noble. A denouement that reveals the last, and most implausible, of the movie’s twists (there are a few), takes place in an upscale school for autistic children where a counselor tells a pair of concerned parents that a normal life is entirely possible for their autistic child with a properly funded education. Really, Affleck’s character’s autism is the most interesting aspect of the movie, the plot itself is fairly run-of-the-mill, a couple of crazy twists notwithstanding.
While The Accountant wants to be taken seriously. It is not without a sense of humor, drawing some laughs from Affleck’s character’s unaware curtness without cruelly laughing at him. The action sequences are good, not great, and it is well-performed if not well-written (it is not terribly written either). The whole thing plays like a feature-length episode of a middling-to-above-average TV show. Is is, in fact, explicitly stated that this is just one of The Accountant’s many adventures and an ending in which the hero drives away in his Ford F-150 (name-dropped in some fairly blatant product placement), hauling his firearm-and-priceless-artwork-filled trailer off to some other city, the filmmakers seem to be saying “Hey, we can make more of these if you want.” The Accountant is just good enough, and just enough of a complete, silly mess, that a sequel would not be entirely unwelcome.
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Writer: Bill Dubuque
Cinematographer: Seamus McGarvey
Editor: Richard Pearson
Producer: Lynette Howell Taylor, Mark Williams
Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow