By: Hawk Ripjaw –
As accounting investigation agent Ray King (J.K. Simmons) puts it, criminals can’t go to H&R Block to cook their books–they need someone who can do it on the down-low for them. Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is the man to do it. As gifted with numbers as he is inept at normal social interaction, Wolff is a certified genius managing a case of autism that has made him a social outcast since he was a young child. Choosing to take on a more legitimate client to take some of the heat brought on by an investigation led by King and analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), Christian is hired to find the source of a bookkeeping discrepancy at a robotics company. He and one of the employees, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) are suddenly targeted by an assassin (Jon Bernthal), and since Christian doesn’t play that shit, he starts showing those poor, squishy bad guys that he’s just as good as killing you John Wick style as he is balancing your checkbook.
Ben Affleck has come a long way since the days of Gigli and Daredevil, delivering yet another great performance as a number cruncher with autism. Christian’s little tics, his difficulty in effectively communicating with others, and his unyielding passion for numbers are all things that can define individuals on the spectrum, and could easily become quirks that overwhelm the character, but Affleck rolls the traits into the character and makes Christian Wolff compelling. Once he flips the switch into killer mode, he’s downright terrifying.
Really, all of the performances here are great. Kendrick is basically playing herself again, but she does it well and has great chemistry with Affleck. Bernthal chews plenty of scenery as the man hunting the pair, and Tambor and Lithgow continue to deliver in their limited screen time. Gavin O’Connor continues to show how he can pull great performances out of his actors, but shows equal skill in delivering a nicely shot and paced film. It’s unafraid to be a little bit quirky and goofy now and then, and the action sequences are delightfully cathartic. The first half of the movie moves at a great clip, and sets up a lot of interesting dominoes in the path of the approaching climax.
Unfortunately, the last 30 minutes feel like the movie forgot it was getting close to the conclusion and rushes to tie everything up. Clocking in at almost exactly two hours, it moves briskly and could have easily gone another 20 minutes or so to smooth out the plot without feeling bloated. As it stands, certain elements of Christian’s past and their place in the timeline, as well as the finer details of the antagonists’ plan, don’t slot together very well, and parts of the ending feel confusing and unsatisfying. In the last act of the film, we get more exposition from the investigating agents discussing Christian’s past adult life and friendship with his mentor Francis (Jeffrey Tambor), but without giving any of those events a clearly defined place in the timeline of the characters. The financial inaccuracies Christian is supposed to be investigating are discussed earlier on in the film, and then largely set aside to explore the character of Christian before being hastily picked back up again with details left on the table. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it does cheapen the plot’s payoff.
Gavin O’Connor’s latest is solidly entertaining, and would have been one of the year’s best if not for the messy third act. The disparate plotlines and slightly muddled series of flashbacks aren’t resolved satisfactorily by the conclusion, and a couple of last-minute plot twists don’t answer the right questions. A series of great performances and an otherwise engaging and well-orchestrated first 90 minutes make it worth a recommendation. It’s brisk, fun and, for the most part, efficient.
The Accountant (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever Christian murders someone.
Do a Shot: every time Christian misinterprets sarcasm or a rhetorical question.
Take a Drink: every time the agents switch to Exposition Mode.
Do a Shot: each time Christian says something blunt.