The Accountant (2016)

January 15, 2017

The Accountant follows the character Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) who is partially autistic. His specialty is uncooking books for criminals and finding where money is leaking for criminal operations. As the film starts, he has been hired by a robotics firm run by Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow). An accountant in the robotics firm, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) discovered some discrepancies and Wolff was hired to uncook the books.

There is also a storyline following a federal analyst, Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) and her boss Ray King (J.K. Simmons) as they search for who this mysterious accountant is. Then there are flashbacks to Wolff's childhood and his dysfunctional family. This family includes his mother who left the family being unable to deal with Christian's needs and his military father who drove Wolff and his brother to train hard to protect themselves. There is also a storyline that follows a man named Brax (Jon Bernthal) whose story is not fully told until the end of the film. Then, there is the story of a jailhouse friend and mentor to Wolff named Francis (Jeffrey Tambor).

The two paragraphs above shows the problem with what would be an otherwise decent action movie: The screenwriter, Bill Dubuque has filled the script with too many under-developed storylines that complicate a film that should have been simple and pure. The movie clocks in at seven minutes over two hours and the film would have been better if a few of the storylines were pruned. The Federal analyst storyline that ended in a large chunk of verbal exposition by J.K. Simmons did not pay off. The movie would not have been affected had this storyline been completely removed. The Francis storyline actually worked a tiny bit of information into the film, but it was not enough to justify the amount of screen time it was given.

The tightening of the script would have resulted in better pacing. The film starts out slow and the pace only picks up near the center of the film. At first, I went with the film believing that the slow burn start would have a good pay off. That was not true.

About half-way through the film, I figured out what was going on between the flashbacks and the present day. It was not hard to figure out, the script drops enough hints and by the time the reveal is done, no one should be surprised.

Kendrick's character who is completely underused in the film. I liked that her character brought a sense of levity to an otherwise serious (and sometimes bland) film. She also brought a humanity to the film. I was disappointed that her character did not have more to do in the film.

J.K. Simmons is an always reliable actor and he is great in his part in The Accountant. Actually, the whole cast is great in the film and this is one of the films greatest assets.

Ben Affleck totally commits to the part of Christian Wolff. Without him, this film would not have worked. Affleck perfectly blends two of his best friend Matt Damon's characters into one: Good Will Hunting plus Jason Bourne.

The action in the film never achieves the pure kinetic feel of something like John Wick. There are some moments in the film that are exciting, but for the most part the action in The Accountant ranges from run-of-the-mill to slightly exciting. For comparison, John Wick had some moments of pure action nirvana -- the invasion of Wick's house, the shootout outside the church and the dance club shootout. The Accountant never rises to such levels and the action scenes in the film are not as memorable.

All in all, I did enjoy The Accountant. It had enough action to keep me interested and the main storyline was decent enough. The other storylines had good enough actors to make them watchable and engaging, but they could have been easily cut from the film.

Spoilers

When Bernthal's character Brax is revealed to be Wolff's brother, I had to roll my eyes. The brother thing felt forced in the film and did not work. It was another example of the script being more complicated just to be more complicated. The brother in the film could have been completely eliminated, that would have eliminated a good chunk of the flashbacks. The backstory for Christian would have been reduced to his father having him train as a way of self-defense. There was no need to have a brother in the story. The brother part of the story also introduced the mother dying and the funeral scene where the father died because of Wolff fighting. Because there was so much other stuff going on, there was no impact for this scene, nor was there much of an impact when Wolff is confronted by his brother at the end of the film.

The storyline with J.K. Simmons that opens the film and then leads into a huge exposition in the middle of the film that showed the opening sequence not once, but twice more was a complete waste. Again, it felt like the screenwriter complicating a script for complications sake. I get that he is trying to show us how Wolff got into the business that he's in. But, this was more than just a scenic route, it drove almost around in circles. Wolff, King and Francis all linking together, like the brothers finding each other at the end of the film, was so coincidental that it felt forced.

The whole deal with the robotics firm and the mystery around the missing money was (as you may have guessed) too complicated. It dealt with two people dying. And the people dying had about five minutes of screen time before they were killed. There was no reason for those characters to exist, nor did their deaths do anything for the plot.

Going back to the John Wick comparison. Explaining John Wick is easy: Bad guys kill man's dog, man seeks revenge. Simple.

The Accountant in comparison: Man with autism uncovers mystery about cooked books, girl is put in danger because of this, man tries to save girl. Federal agents track down man, one agent is retiring and is looking for his replacement by blackmailing an analyst to work with Accountant. Father trains his two sons to fight and protect themselves, only to have sons lose track of each other after father dies at mother's funeral, only then to have the sons find each other out of pure coincidence when one son is trying to kill the man protected by another son. Complicated.


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