‘The Accountant’ calculates, but with some error

Ben Affleck stars with Anna Kendrick in "The Acccountant." (Chuck Zlotnick via Warner Bros.)

It’s been an interesting year for Ben Affleck, who — after donning the cape and cowl earlier this year in the blockbuster “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016)– now plays a radically different character in “The Accountant” (2016).

After Christian “Chris” Wolff (Affleck) and fellow accountant Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) uncover a potential money laundering scheme in a robotics company, they are both sent on the run from assassins hired by the company’s CEO, Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow), and led by hit man Brax (Jon Bernthal). Meanwhile, treasury department agents Raymond King (J.K. Simmons) and Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai Robinson) try to decipher Wolff’s mysterious past.

This is a film that has every right to be generic but isn’t. As Wolff lives with autism spectrum disorder, autism plays a large role within the film’s theme. “The Accountant” also organically incorporates aspects of family drama in its well-coordinated use of flashbacks. It’s in these moments that the film becomes another movie altogether, but in a good way, creating sympathy for a morally-conflicted character. The distressing glimpses of Wolff’s brutal fight training and traumatic past only leave the audience wanting to know more about him. He actively conquers obstacles as a youth, showing beautiful character growth, and he eventually becomes an action bad-ass racking up a fairly robust body count.

Critics and audiences have repeatedly mocked Affleck for his rather poor work in the 2000s, since “The Town” (2010), he has proven himself to be a formidable actor. He delivers a thrilling yet poignant performance as a man torn between his professional obligations, developmental disabilities and troubled past. Affleck is more on the reserved and emotionless side, but he uses those qualities to craft a three-dimensional character, additionally injecting well-timed situational humor in a generally bleak film.

Kendrick performs decently with what she had to work with. She livens up the rather serious atmosphere with her bubbly attitude, awkwardly attempting to socialize with Wolff. Unfortunately, her screen time is rather curtailed as the film is Affleck’s star vehicle. Nevertheless, they have fine chemistry and even have a heart-to-heart moment about how she obtained money for a prom dress. Thankfully, she’s not an obligatory love interest or damsel-in-distress type.

Director Gavin O’Connor not only crafts a compelling character but also shoots some enthralling action. The cacophonous sound design complements the shootouts, with every shot from Wolff’s sniper rifle piercing the audience’s ears. The gritty action scenes blend steady and handheld camerawork proficiently. They combine the brutal hand-to-hand combat of “The Raid: Redemption” (2011) with the mesmerizing gunplay of “John Wick” (2014). In these gruesome scenes, Affleck makes smart use of his comedic wit, with his last kill in particular being its best instance.

“The Accountant” mostly works well as a character study, but it also factors in some fun action. However, its plot becomes overly complex and even convoluted at times. One can easily get lost in the various threads of this one unevenly woven fabric of a story. Granted, some mesh well, such as Wolff’s childhood flashbacks. However, the material concerning the investigation doesn’t engage, as Simmons and Robinson are not well-rounded characters and merely deliver exposition. The editor could remove them and the film wouldn’t really suffer.

Not to break the cardinal rule of spoilers, but audiences can expect some twists. They generally make sense, given the overall character development, but the execution is faulty since it halts the story’s progression. Despite the narrative gaps, “The Accountant” is worthy of one’s time. Affleck’s committed performance and the unique nature of protagonist he portrays put an interesting spin in the action genre.


3.5 stars