Sunday, October 16, 2016

Review: The Accountant

Image courtesy of Warner Bros
Although, at times, "The Accountant" is preposterously entertaining, the picture's central character is too enigmatic to truly care about, his motives are questionable at best and the film's finale features several twists that tip the scale toward the realm of the absurd.

The film, which was directed by Gavin O'Connor ("Warrior"), is not a bad one by any means. It is, at times, moody and compelling and features some pretty solid supporting work, especially J.K. Simmons as an agent who is on the titular character's trail. There are also a few action sequences late in the picture that are well handled and even a few jokes that hit their targets.

But the central problem with "The Accountant" is its lead character, Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck), an autistic man whose completely unrealistic upbringing (shown in flashback) taught him to be a math wizard, deadly assassin and secret agent of sorts, although one acting only in his own self interest. One of the problems is that the flashbacks jump all over the place and I'm not completely sure they ever quite add up.

There's a stint in a witness protection program where he's taught the tricks of the accounting-for-criminals trade by Jeffrey Tambor, a scene in which his mother flees his military father when he's young, a visit to a center for autism where a teacher appears enthusiastic to work with Christian and, in one of the movie's most ridiculous sequences, a session in which Christian and his brother train with a martial arts expert somewhere in Asia, while their father observes.

Wolff, we are told, works for some of the most evil people in the world (cartels, the mob, terrorists) and, as an accountant, helps uncook their books. He begins to get a conscience after taking a job looking through the filings of a robotics company led by John Lithgow. One of that company's employees (Anna Kendrick) finds herself in danger after she and Christian spot a discrepancy and they flee together. From there, the rest of the picture is mostly well-staged shootouts and silly plot reveals.

Late in the picture, we are supposed to believe that Wolff's operation - which includes a mysterious woman's voice on various phone calls with the accountant - is used for benevolent purposes, but it's difficult to square that with the fact that he enables so many sinister people. It's one of the many conflicting elements in the character that made me draw the conclusion that the film's writers didn't completely think it through thoroughly.

So, while "The Accountant" is a visually slick and occasionally exciting thriller, it is also one with some gaping holes in the script department and a pair of plot twists in the finale that might have you shaking your head. For a Hollywood action thriller, you could certainly do worse, but if you hold out you could also likely do better.

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