Sometimes, you can walk into a movie, excited about its prospects, and it pays off. Occasionally, a film can surprise you, but often if you have the proper attitude, you can find something to like about almost anything.
It’s an odd way to start this review, because the big thing you need to know is The Accountant is a hell of a lot of fun. I suppose I went with the above argument due to my interest in the film walking into the screening earlier this week. I’ve been interested in the concept since the initial trailer, which hooked me even before they appealed to my musical sensibilities by using Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place.” Unfortunately, the first single from Kid A didn’t end up being used in the film itself.
It’s not that The Accountant is filled with depth, but there’s enough there to keep it from being superficial. It’s not that The Accountant is constant action, but again, there’s enough there to keep it from being dull. It’s not that The Accountant is loaded with laughs, but there is enough humor included (even a few unintentional moments) to ensure your 128 minutes isn’t overly dry.
The truth about this movie is that it does several different things well, and even though you can find examples of films that do each of those things better or more consistently, never does this story or its big screen treatment fail in any of its attempts.
Without giving away much of the story, Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is an autistic accountant, who specializes in seeing the patterns within sequences of numbers, revealing how books can be cooked inside corporations, criminal organizations, and occasionally saving a struggling family some money with added deductions. He also suffers from a form of Asperger’s Syndrome, which isn’t entirely uncommon in autistic individuals. As a child, he dealt with his parents’ divorce, and an overbearing military father who pushed him and his younger brother into physical altercations. He went through many training sessions, and was nearly beaten to death, all while his father urged the instructor to attack with more ferocity.
What comes from all of these circumstances is a man with a specialized skill, who has been trained to fight. So, if you were to take portions of Rain Man, portions of A Beautiful Mind, and portions of the character of Jason Bourne, you might begin to understand Christian Wolff.
The story itself surrounds Wolff’s association with a robotics company, hired to find missing money, which he does relatively quickly. When millions of dollars disappear, someone did it, and that someone is willing to do almost anything to keep that truth hidden from the world, and certainly from others within the corporation. The company’s CEO, Lamar Black (John Lithgow), provides Wolff with a perfect place to work, and along with executive colleague Rita Blackburn (Jean Smart), the two bigwigs are looking to find out whether someone is siphoning off the top, or in some way gaming the system.
During his very short time working in the job, Christian meets an in-house accountant, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), and the two become friends, bonding over mathematics, puzzles, and their own eccentricities. And, simultaneously, federal treasury executive Ray King (J.K. Simmons) brings in Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to try and figure out Wolff’s true identity, considering the secrets he likely holds and the powerful rooms he’s been in over the years.
Working on the side of villainy is Brax (Jon Bernthal), who uses tactical intelligence and a true mean streak to accomplish goals for his clients, which end up including the film’s major antagonist.
Wolff attacks with precision and viciousness, using a perceived moral code to determine who needs to be eliminated. His house is a fortress, but one put together with care, and he has plenty of off books money, because an accountant knows how to keep it away from prying eyes.
One thing that feels very real by the closing credits is that Warner Bros. sees a potential franchise here. While it does end in a way that could be final, the expectation has to be that the movie will do well and there’s more of a story here. The “special children” angle grows in the movie’s final act, and opens up new avenues to do much more in Bill Dubuque’s story. Or, even if you walk out thinking there’s nothing else there, you’re going to see that the distributors clearly do see a future. With the Jason Bourne franchise holding on for dear life, The Accountant fills a good bit of that void, but with a new twist, a new cast, and a fresh coat of paint.
As for the nuts and bolts, the acting is solid. Ben Affleck can be wooden, but in this role, it plays to his benefit, rather than his detriment. Simmons is always good, as is Kendrick, with only the occasional bad vehicle hindering them. This isn’t the best thing either has done, but it’s far from the worst. The same goes for the always stellar Jean Smart, who isn’t in the film for very long, and John Lithgow, both of whom are outrageously talented. Cynthia Addai-Robinson might be one you’re unfamiliar with, but she never allows herself to be outclassed in this film. Her scenes with Simmons are collaborative affairs, and that’s a big compliment. Plus, if there is to be a franchise, she proves she’s ready to be a large part of it.
Jon Bernthal is definitely on the come-up. He’s about to star in Netflix’ The Punisher, reprising the role he played in the second season of Daredevil, and he’s popping up in more and more motion pictures. He’s come a long way since the days of Shane on The Walking Dead. He is EXCELLENT in this movie, and comes across like a true star. If you’re making a short list of male actors to keep an eye on from this point forward, Bernthal should be on that sheet of paper.
Unlike so many of 2016’s duds and even its decent offerings, The Accountant’s 128 minutes fly by. When it’s over, it feels 20 minutes shorter than it is. It’s not an award film in any way, and I guarantee you the general public will enjoy it far more than many critics. It’s not an artistic work of art, a tearjerker, or a Tolstoy novel. I generally have a good sense of where my colleagues will fall on a specific effort, and often I agree with them.
But, I’m not here to march in lockstep with anyone else. You read my stuff because you trust I’m going to hand it to you straight, and this is a film you’re going to like. It doesn’t have to cure cancer to be worth your money. I’m looking forward to seeing it again soon. And I’ve never been good at math.
Letter grade? B (Not + or -)
It may not be for everyone, but this kind of movie is tailor made for the blockbuster side of my critical sensibilities. Provided you understand going in that what you’re going to see is going to be entertaining first, clever second, and crafty third, you’ll be just fine. I sat next to a friend and fellow critic who absolutely hated The Accountant. We agreed to disagree. Feel free to call me a jackass if ever I lead you astray, but I really do think you’re going to dig this story.
You should check The Accountant out on the big screen. It’s worth the price of admission, plus a medium popcorn (butter is your choice) and a beverage. I will say you should leave the kiddies at home. The language isn’t all that bad, but it’s extremely violent in spots, and some of the worst content is graphic and not well-hidden. Go with your friend or your significant other, but grab a babysitter. You’ll thank me later.
I’m @JMartOutkick. I’m still bummed “Everything In Its Right Place” wasn’t in the movie. I may never get over it.