If we’re being honest, it’s a gutsy move to call an action film THE ACCOUNTANT. Releasing this week, it stars Ben Affleck as a C.P.A. who not only can solve your tax troubles, he also has a lot of secrets, and knows his way not only around a calculator and the tax code, but guns and knives of all caliber and size. Does it sound like a joke? It did to me, too. As with many potential fans of the movie, it struck me that it will either fail by being ridiculous or succeed and entertain. At very least, THE ACCOUNTANT is not a sequel or superhero movie, so movie lovers wanting something original should root for it.
The good news is, while the movie feels at some points like it has absolutely no idea where it’s going, by the end, a number of viewers including me were quite taken by it, and were most certainly entertained. For a wannabe blockbuster, it’s strange. Not Jim Jarmusch or David Lynch strange, but it requires viewers to stay invested through whole sections that seem out of place or superfluous until things fall together.
Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a numbers savant. On the autism spectrum, we discover through flashbacks that his military father trained him to defend himself by arming both Christian and his brother with martial arts and weapons training. Christian becomes an accountant helping those in need, but he is also somehow involved with the worst crime families, cartels, and terrorist organizations, ostensibly fixing their books. Or is he nixing the crooks? Wolff has learned to approach high stress situations with a cool distance. So much so, that his bloody, exploding, kill shots, and there are many, both close range and from hundreds of yards, in the course of the film, barely cause him a flinch. He’s also being hunted by several treasury agents, including soon-to-be-retired Ray King (J.K. Simmons). When he finds himself protecting fellow accountant Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), who gets caught in the crossfire of whatever he’s into, the audience is pulled into intrigue, violence, and high action.
Not all of the pieces fit together in this puzzle. There are characters and actions that give pause, in terms of motivation or placement in the larger picture, but the story trundles along so fast it’s only when the credits roll that questions start bubbling up. There are enough references to franchises like Bourne, and characters like Kurt Russell’s Todd 3465 in SOLDIER, that some viewers will still find the film derivative. That being said, Affleck’s portrayal as Hollywood’s first assassin with Asperger’s is engaging enough to tease commitment from those who find themselves pulled into the theater. All the actors ably play their roles, and it’s gratifying to see Kendrick’s character as not a fainting, shrinking victim, but a fully formed, funny, questioning, independent young woman as the co-star in an action film with a man as lead.
Ultimately, THE ACCOUNTANT could have been either laughable or engaging. As it happens, I found it to be the latter, and believe plenty of other filmgoers will do the same. Stay with it, give into it, and you’ll find the numbers add up and it will reward you in the end. The next logical step would be Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as Jason Bourne and Christian Wolff doing a crossover together called The Bourne Accountant.
3 out of 5 stars.