Ben Affleck is Christian Wolff, the accountant in question. He’s got a case of high-functioning autism, a sniper rifle that shoots anti-aircraft rounds and the psychological inability to leave a stone unturned. As such, he’s the guy you want crunching numbers and—if such a thing is called for—crunching heads.
While other kids were picking their nose and ruminating on where to hide the fruits of their venture, Wolff was putting together jigsaw puzzles upside down—that is, the part with no picture. But as we know from other geniuses, there’s a thin line between brilliance and insanity. His mother wanted to plant him in a school that specialized in such cases, but his father didn’t want him coddled, and instead subjected Wolff to intense physical training—a baptism of fire, to make the rest of his life feel cushy in comparison. As an adult, Wolff has his more obnoxious eccentricities in control and channels the others into business ventures, both legitimate and illegitimate. But after being hired by the always suspicious John Lithgow and Jean Smart, it becomes increasingly clear that legitimacy is a vague term.
“The Accountant” is not a wall-to-wall action film. Like its hero’s weapon of choice, the bloodshed is precise, steady and meaningful—every scene counts, like every bullet—unlike its contemporaries, who are more likely to take the buckshot approach, for fear of boring one person. Not only does this sparse use of conflict give the story space to breath, but it prevents audience desensitization, so that every time a gun is fired, it’s as scary and thrilling as the last. The sound design for Wolff’s sniper rifle, in particular, is exceptional, as you hear—or sometimes see—the impact of the bullet before you hear the sonic boom of the gun.
Despite having a fairly box-checking script, there’s enough mystery meat on some of the characters to keep things interesting. When J.K. Simmons melts onto a couch, pushes his hat over his eyes and mutters, “I was old 10 years ago,” you believe him—this small moment is far more effective than his character’s “big scene,” which stinks of ambition. Affleck is okay as Wolff, but he’s played and written as a lovable weirdo, which is a thin angle to take with such an abstract character. Anna Kendrick is the adorable moral center, aiming to win our hearts with nervous smiles, and does.
Everything’s going pretty well, until the film buckles in the third act. First of all, the writer backs up a garbage truck to the screen and dumps a week’s worth of moldy facts and tidbits on your head, none of which add anything of interest to the story—they shift your perception of events ever so slightly. Then out of nowhere, like a suicidal bird, there’s a—dum, dum, dum—reveal! I began to have flashbacks of “The Girl on the Train,” as it’s another bizarre plot twist for surprise’s sake and nothing else. If that wasn’t enough, the very ending resembles the series finale of a bad sitcom, where every character’s story is tied off with a shiny bow, a little too neatly—focus group approved, I reckon.
Okay, so it doesn’t stick the landing, but otherwise “The Accountant” is a smooth, action-packed drama under a thick, double-coating of film grain. It reminded me of the creeping, character-focused talk now/shoot later films of yesteryear, like “Get Carter” or “The Getaway,” but not as good and without the swagger.
3.5 out of 5 stars