Join ScreenCritics Adam as he checks out Ben Affleck’s ‘The Accountant’. Do the numbers add up for this subtle action thriller?
When you are naming a film, you want it to create enough intrigue that people want to know more. So with recent release Lion, you want to know if that is a fitting metaphor for the plot arc or if there is an actual lion in it and the film takes a massive swerve in genres halfway through. And if you name your film well enough, you don’t need an advertising campaign as it sells itself, like Sharknado did many years ago. Of course you can go the opposite direction and name your film something very mundane, but history tells us that’s a bad move, just look at The Postman. But let’s see if The Accountant can get pas the boring name and be an interesting film.
Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck, Argo) works as an accountant for criminal organisations and has ended up building up a name for himself despite using several different covers. However many people are soon on the tail of him as a Treasury Department agent Medina (Cynthia, Addai-Robinson, Colombiana) starts to discover his crimes while a hitman (Jon Bernthal, The Wolf of Wall Street) is also chasing him after he exposed a massive embezzlement scam.
So yes, rather luckily, The Accountant isn’t a film about a man doing accounts for small businesses. It’s actually an action film which obviously takes inspiration from the Jason Bourne series for its down to earth gritiness and general style. However that doesn’t stop the film from focusing on actual accounting for way longer than it has to. Yes, the film needs to show Christian working out the actual embezzlement for plot purposes, but boy does it take a while, or at least feel like it does. Look accountants of the world, I appreciate you have a tough time and this film must have felt like your time in the sun, but boy is your job boring. Please don’t inflict more of it in our films please.
Luckily though while the accounting is as boring as you’d expect, the action is pretty decent. There’s nothing revolutionary in the way that Gavin O’Connor (Warrior) creates the action, it is mostly shoot outs and some close up stuff in dark corridors, but he does it in such a clean way that it is rather easy to just sit back and enjoy. For all of the obvious inspiration from the Jason Bourne series, O’Connor resists using it’s most famous and influential trope, shaky cam, and allows us to enjoy the choreography his team have created. And guess what all other action directors, it means you can see what’s going on and I liked what I saw.
The only real issue with The Accountant is that there isn’t enough of it. This is a film that lasts two hours and while it may say it is something different like for instance, it’s Wikipedia page claims it is a crime thriller, this is a film that has advertised itself as an action film and knows that is what got people in the seats in the cinema and what will get people to buy the Blu-Ray. So the fact there are only a few action scenes in the film, and it takes over an hour to get to the first one, comes as a pretty big irritation especially when you do end up enjoying the action on display.
It is worth mentioning at this point that Christian is on the autistic spectrum. It is always good to see people on the spectrum get more representation on the big screen and the film does make an attempt to show that it is a very varied condition and that two cases of autism are very rarely similar. Now I don’t really want to speak on how realistic the representation of autism is, because quite frankly I don’t have a clue and I’m trying to develop a habit of not talking absolute rubbish, I won’t make a comment on that. There has been a lot of interesting pieces on this, and I will point you to this very good article on The Establishment about it which has a very balanced view on the subject.
But the biggest problem this film has is that it tries to do too much in the story department. It’s obvious that this wants to be the start of a franchise, so it packs in an origin story where we see Christian’s autistic tendencies being diagnosed and the rough upbringing he’s had, because of course he had a rough upbringing. It does this, plus two different groups chasing him, with one of the groups having their own sub plots about trying to get Christian in. While there’s a lot of time to do this, the plots end up getting muddled up and unclear. It just needed a bit more focus, a few of the sub plots clipped away so we could get on with the real plot.
The Accountant has a place in the film world. We all need a decent little action film to watch on ITV2 when you are a bit sleepy on a Sunday night and this film fills that hole well. It’s not a terrible plot, though it is very muddled and if you do fall asleep during the film you are done for as you won’t catch up, and the action is solid meaning there is enjoyment to be had. But as a potential franchise starter? No, unless you want to do a line of straight to DVD films.