“Do you like puzzles?” It’s a line that recurs throughout The Accountant, and one which you should ask yourself before heading into Gavin O’Connor’s second-rate thriller. Not because the film is particularly clever or the narrative particularly labyrinthine, but mainly because it sits, rather uncomfortably, in the puzzling no man’s land between a dumb-but-fun actioner and a takes-itself-too-seriously dull-fest.
Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, a man who’s autism affords him ‘supernatural’ accountancy skills. But whilst he appears to be an everyday American citizen on the surface, Wolff’s criminal clientele means that the accountant is just as good at killing as he is at math; especially after being trained in the art of combat by his military father when growing up. Wolff is a man with a strict moral code, however, and when his latest contract puts the life of a innocent young woman at risk, he comes running to the rescue.
With such a premise, the fact that The Accountant is only fleetingly fun is the main reason it doesn’t work as well as it should. Bill Debuque’s script seems to think it’s far more intelligent than it actually is, opting for a scattergun narrative (we open in 1989, then we’re in the present day, then we’re in Switzerland, then back to the past before the present again) that doesn’t quite manage the desired effect of weaving a mystery, but rather drags down the story with unnecessary weight.
In the more action-orientated sequences, which focus on the man and woman on the run trope, the film is a brilliant piece of entertainment (a moment in which Affleck takes on two assassins with the help of some of his more elderly clients, gets the balance between comedy and action just right) but these scenes are usually sandwiched between exposition heavy dialogue – in one of the film’s most laughable points, J.K. Simmons literally spends about ten-minutes telling us everything that’s been going on – that quickly counteract the thrills.
But whilst there are a number of problems, namely within the writing, there’s still plenty within The Accountant that I couldn’t help but enjoy. The cast are fantastic across the board, with the likes of Affleck, Simmons, Anna Kendrick, John Lithgow and Jon Bernthal doing their best with the material they’ve been given – the final moments between Affleck and Bernthal being a particular highlight – and the set-pieces are good enough to enjoy at the there-and-then. It’s adequate to the point where it passes the time, but it’s just frustrating that, somewhere along the line, a silly and simple concept became overly complicated in the way it was told.
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