It’s Accounting, What Could Be Boring About That?

October 20, 2016

Photo: IMDb

The Accountant is the latest offering from director Gavin O’Connor (Warrior, Miracle). The crime drama offers very little in the way of crime and even less in the way of drama. The story of a criminal accountant lacks emotional weight and fails to make up for it with a remotely compelling plot. Even with a several plot twists that attempt to draw the viewer back into the film, the story cannot be salvaged. Ultimately, The Accountant had the opportunity to be an absorbing crime drama, but ended up rushing to its unsatisfying conclusion.

The audience is introduced to Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck), a CPA who leads a double life finding money stolen from people who operate outside the law — the Juarez Cartel and the Gambino crime family are just a couple examples mentioned in the film.  Wolff is a high-functioning autistic and, as a result, a savant who “can uncook years worth of books,” sometimes within a single night. On top of all this, he is an expert marksman and martial artist trained by his military father. Wolff begins the film by taking a job from a technology company whose accountant, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), found missing money on the books. The company’s founder (John Lithgow) hires Wolff to find out who has been embezzling. The job is supposed to be a break from Wolff’s normally illicit clientele, but it turns out that someone is unhappy with Wolff looking through the books. They hire a hitman, Brax (Jon Bernthal), to kill Wolff and Dana. All the while the Treasury Crimes Network is after Wolff as well, wanting to discover the true identity of the infamous accountant (Wolff is just an alias) before he retires.  

Wolff is flat and emotionless most of the time. He fails to connect with any of the other characters on screen. This is especially obvious in his scenes with Dana, who is obviously smitten with him. Wolff is completely oblivious and fails to respond to her desperate attempts to flirt with him. This isn’t a criticism. Wolff’s character calls for this cold behavior and Affleck plays it faithfully. However, far too much time with Wolff. His amorality never inspires any kind of personal struggle. When he decides to spare someone rather than kill them, it might as well be chalked up to personal whims that the audience will never understand. The other problem with dedicating so much time to such an uninspiring character is that the film lacks an emotional core. When Wolff is engaged in firefights with assassins, there isn’t any tension ashe is never humanized in other scenes. Wolff’s life doesn’t seem to be of particular significance. The writers also seemed to realize this as they threw in a couple of last minute twists in an attempt to make the other characters seem complex. Sadly, it is too little, too late. If these developments had come earlier, they could have given the story much needed tension. As it is, the conflicts are resolved as quickly as they were introduced.

J.K. Simmons, Cynthia Addai-Robinson and Jon Bernthal are severely underutilized. There are extras with more character development than these three were given in the first hour and a half of this movie. It really is a shame because all three were eventually given character traits that could have made for a truly compelling story. The movie suffered for reducing these three to peripheral figures.

The Accountant opens with a scene of a young Wolff trying to solve a puzzle. When he cannot find the final piece needed to complete it, he melts down screaming “I need to finish!” The Accountant was missing more than a few pieces, but unfortunately it seems that the writers didn’t share Wolff’s need to find them.   


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