Wednesday, October 12, 2016

“The Accountant”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a New York Times Film Club screening of the new crime drama “The Accountant”, starring Ben Affleck. 


Once The Treasury Department pursues an accountant with underworld ties, he evades them by taking a legitimate client – but when he learns millions of dollars are missing from the company, can he uncover the culprit before the authorities catch up with him?


Christopher Wolff (Affleck) runs a rather non-descript accounting firm in a strip mall in the Midwest; it returns a modest profit, but where he really gets most of his extremely substantial income is by plying his trade for some very high-powered international criminals.  Wolff works for many dangerous men and given his own extensive training in martial arts and weapons, he happens to be pretty dangerous himself.  Why is Wolff able to command such high prices for his services?  Obviously, it’s because he’s quite good.  However, he’s so good at his chosen occupation because of his disability:  he’s a mathematical genius who’s been treated for autism since childhood.

But Wolff’s life is far from trouble-free.  The United States government is hot on his tail.  In order to prosecute these criminals, they have to follow the money – and all of their money leads to Wolff.  As a result, the Treasury Department is tasked with investigating; lead officer Ray King (J.K. Simmons) recruits Special Agent Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to head up the case, which could turn out to redefine their careers if it’s handled properly.  Medina immediately gets to work on trying to find who exactly is helping these malefactors launder their money. 

Once Wolff learns the government may be pursuing him, he tries to drop off their radar by taking a more standard consulting job at a robotics firm.  The owner of the company (John Lithgow) hired him to ascertain where and how millions of his organization’s dollars disappeared.  Helping Wolff in his research is an employee (Anna Kendrick) who initially reported the discrepancy.  But when Wolff figures out that the root cause of the missing funds is something more nefarious than just a simple bookkeeping error, will he be willing to risk his life to bring the real culprit to justice?    


There was a great outcry from movie fans when it was announced that Ben Affleck would play Batman; some felt he would not be believable in that role.  It’s not unlike Tom Cruise playing the Jack Reacher character; in the novels, Reacher is supposed to be somewhere around 6’4” tall – Cruise, however, is a bit more vertically challenged.  Despite height discrepancy, the original flick was a success and a sequel is due out shortly.  So, is it any wonder that Affleck has now been cast to play an accountant?  Perhaps the film should have been titled, “The Bean-Counter With The Six Pack Abs”.

As a grown man struggling with autism, Affleck’s affect-free performance is sometimes reminiscent of a cross between Leonard Nimoy’s Spock from “Star Trek” and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator.  At least if critics say that Affleck’s acting is robotic, this time it’s a compliment.  There’s a hint of a romance with Kendrick’s role, but it never develops; sadly, her talent is wasted in “The Accountant”.  She’s supposed to be the character who mirrors the audience – seeing Wolff’s world as an outsider, but the actress is relegated to nothing more than a number of “Oh Gosh!” moments. 

If you’re looking for escapist entertainment with plenty of violent fight scenes and explosions, then “The Accountant” could be just as good a popcorn movie as any.  On the other hand, if you expect to find an interesting story, it might be a bit of a disappointment.  While the film tries to be mysterious by withholding information until late, it only winds up making the story as a whole a bit of a challenge to follow at times.  It could successfully be argued that Affleck is once again being fobbed off to the public as another type of super hero character.  If that’s the case, however, it appears that we’re given to believe Wolff’s true super power is his disability of autism. 

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