Film Review: THE ACCOUNTANT (USA 2016) ***

the_accountant_poster.jpgTHE ACCOUNTANT (USA 2016) ***
Directed by Gavin O’Connor

Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambor

Review by Gilbert Seah

Directed by Gavin O’Connor (WARRIOR, PRIDE AND GLORY) and written by Bill Dubuque, THE ACCOUNTANT is a action thriller that strives to be stylishly different. For one, it centres on an accountant, one that cooks the books for dangerous drug cartel members. He is hunted down by Revenue Federal agents. Is THE ACCOUNTANT a good or bad guy? How can he be made into an exciting action hero? How can he be made into a more than special human being? All these factors are infused into Dubuque’s script, which often appears to be trying too hard, resulting in a film more confusing and complex than need be.

As the film stars Ben Affleck who plays a human fighting machine, the film feels like a BATMAN with numbers.

Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a mathematics savant (autistic) with more affinity for numbers than people. His childhood is traced, in flashback till the present. As a child, Christian’s military father believes that difference is perceived as a threat to most people. To protect his son, he forces Christian to better himself in martial-arts.

Grown up, Christian is a top-notch accountant who uses a small-town CPA office in a strip-mall as a cover. He makes his living as a forensic accountant for dangerous criminal organizations. With a Treasury Revenue Agent, Ray King (Oscar winner J.K. Simmons from WHIPLASH ) hot on his heels, Christian takes on a state-of-the-art robotics company as a legitimate client. As Wolff gets closer to the truth about a discrepancy that involves millions of dollars, the body count starts to rise. With the help of a new Revenue recruit, Median (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) who Ray blackmails into helping, Wolff’s identity is revealed. The showdown finally takes place in the mansion of the company owner (John Lithgow) who turns out to be the villain of the piece.

Besides Dubuque’s clumsy script, the film contains too many unintentional funny moments. The result is the promo audience laughing at too many parts during the climax. Median’s character could also be eliminated from the script for a leaner film, without much effect.
Affleck delivers an almost perfect low-key performance as the stoic accountant, whose body movements are basically stationary unless absolutely necessary as in the action scenes. Of the remainder of the cast, Jeffrey Tambor shines as Wolff’s cellmate, who was also involved with the drug cartels. Thankfully, the audience is spared the torture scenes, though a few hints (like the sight of a blow torch and damaged face) are enough to make anyone shudder.

Near the end, the film suddenly decides that it has to provide some message on autism. This results in one of the film’s most awkward segments with the music tuned to ‘melancholy’. For a film supposedly positive towards autism, the film contains some really disturbing scenes involving strobe lights and loud sounds.

Despite all its faults, THE ACCOUNTANT is a well-mounted film, with very exciting actions segments aided by crisp editing that conveys the accountant’s martial-arts training. THE ACCOUNTANT at least, attempts to put in some originality into the well-worn action genre.



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