There’s about half to three quarters of a really solid movie to be found within “The Accountant.” The rest is utterly ridiculous and almost unintentionally funny. It’s the type of film that will have a long life on cable, in particular on networks like TNT and USA. Often, it’s a case of one step forward, but two steps back. It gives us a solid idea, but doesn’t follow through on it. It gives us a great cast, but wastes the majority of them. This makes for a frustrating viewing experience, though never a boring one. This is the very definition of a mixed bag.
“The Accountant” wants to be slightly more than meets the eye. It’s not content to just be a shoot ’em up, but it doesn’t have the courage of its convictions to truly be a drama about an autistic man. Ben Affleck gives it his all in the lead role, nearly saving the day. Especially when the shooting stops, you’re pretty compelled by what he’s doing. There’s just not enough of that. Don’t get me wrong, the action works. It just has the misfortune of being the least interesting element here. Between that and the sometimes nonsensical plot, the character moments are what you latch on to.
The less this relies on plot, the better off it is. In broad strokes, this follows math savant Christian Wolff (Affleck), who uses an accounting front to do his true work, as someone who uncooks the books for dangerous folks all over the world. Christian lives by a code instilled in him at a young age by his stern military father. This was put in place after it was determined that he had a high functioning form of autism. When he takes a legit job with a robotics firm, he’s introduced to Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), the employee who found the discrepancy. The head of the company Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow) puts him to work, but at the same time, forces are coming out of the shadows.
The government, led by Treasury agent Ray King (J.K. Simmons) and analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), want to figure out who the man known as The Accountant truly is. Also, shadowy figures, including assassin Brax (Jon Bernthal) are closing in, leaving bodies in their wake. When things get heavy, Christian finds Dana targeted for execution. This forces him to think of someone else for once, but also to wonder why she’s so important. It all dovetails into a big action set piece, but from time to time, we get glimpses into Christian’s existence. Those moments are fascinating, and you’ll wish that “The Accountant” gave you more of them.
Affleck really does commendable work here, grounding the silliness in a very solid performance. Though he never disappears into this character, his mannered turn hits on much more than you’d expect. Obviously he’s comfortable kicking ass and shooting guns, so when it comes to that, he’s on friendly territory. He does challenge himself somewhat with the quieter moments, and it’s much needed. In some ways, it’s an interesting companion piece to his work in “The Town.” There’s no chemistry between Affleck and Kendrick, but that’s mostly intentional. Kendrick is her normal likable self, but the script shortchanges her in a big way. She deserved better.
The aforementioned Bernthal and Simmons seem to be having great times, but they’re mostly wasted as well. Bernthal chews the scenery, while Simmons plays a part he’s done a dozen times before. In terms of the supporting players, Addai-Robinson fares the best, though she’s stuck with the inferior B plot. Lithgow is very under utilized, to put it mildly. Other cast members include Jean Smart and Jeffrey Tambor, among many more, but they’re almost cameos. This is all about Affleck and his central performance. Luckily, that’s a winning element here. You’ll want more from everyone else though, and that’s a shame.
Director Gavin O’Connor has made a pair of great sports dramas with “Miracle” and “Warrior.” When he veers more towards action, he’s on shakier ground. The script he’s working with from Bill Dubuque definitely goes off the rails towards the end, but there are ideas sprinkled throughout. O’Connor sometimes seems put off by those, however, so we always veer back towards gunfights and murder. It’s never boring, but those morsels of a thoughtful picture leave you hungry. The musical cues are strong, both the score from Mark Isham and the song that the film chooses to end on, so there’s that. The cinematography from Seamus McGarvey is disappointingly on the bland side, and that’s a shame. O’Connor is capable of better visuals.
Depending on what you want out of it, “The Accountant” could very well prove satisfying. As a dumb action film, it’s enjoyable in that cable TV sort of way. As a wannabe drama, it’s too sporadic in that endeavor to work. The mixture is odd, but it makes it strangely watchable. This movie is worth seeing, but almost in an ironic way. In the end, “The Accountant” nearly tricks you into digging it, but doesn’t stick around to finish the job.
“The Accountant” is distributed by Warner Brothers and is in theaters this Friday, Oct. 14.