The Accountant Review

Accountant, The.jpg

Ben Affleck keeps his action blockbuster roll in 2016 coming with The Accountant; Darren and Shane review.

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In the grand scheme of things, does genre matter?

To the audience, it informs us, beforehand, the style of movie we are going to see and I don’t just mean the type. It denotes the tropes and the style, the pacing and even the cinematography. Stories fall below its fixating gaze and are reverted to form becoming ‘genre-pieces’ even when they try to ignore it.

I say again, does genre matter, to a movie, to our expectations or even just in classifications?

Christian Wolff is a mathematical savant, diagnosed with an extreme form of Autism; he has a gift for numbers, killing and for intense focus. Using his skills and his dispassionate nature, he travels the world, uncooking the books of the most dangerous criminals and terrorists, to find where their money has been stolen. But when the police get closer to his operations, he must take a normal, legal job to hide suspicion. There he finds a puzzle he just can’t let go, even if it will kill him.

There is a danger inherent to movies talking about certain topics. Whether it is race, religion, sex or mental issues, there is a chance to offend, to simply get something wrong. And this can blow up in a movies face. Audiences can spot inauthenticity, and when something like this is central to your story, to your main character, it needs to feel real. We, the audience, must believe that you know what you’re talking about, that you’ve lived it, felt it. Otherwise, there will be no real engagement and we’ll always be on the back foot, never committed to the story.

Thankfully, The Accountant nails it.

This seems to know what it is talking about, and with a solid performance from Affleck, you could really believe it. His inability to hold eye-contact, the stressed body language, even the way he carried himself really gave the role a sense of authenticity. The standout, however, was Seth Lee playing Affleck’s younger self. A wonderful performance, even if it was only sparingly shown.

The rest of the cast are great, J.K. Simmons dominates every scene he is in, as always. Kendrick relies on her dorky charms and likeability, and Tambor, though underutilised, is a solid addition, giving his father-figure role real character. Each of the rest of cast give good performances, never overshadowing the rest but working in sync with the tone of the film.

The movie has a nice duality about it, the antagonist being the shadow of our lead, giving a nice counterpoint to our main character. Even his actions and motivations make you wonder if either of them are the bad guy, and it feels refreshing, that you root for both somehow, subverting the standard way of thinking about action movies.

This duality continues throughout, each character is a juxtaposition of who they are, giving us a cast that is a little more three-dimensional than your standard fare if they were only allowed to be given more time to breathe. And that’s the main problem, here. The Accountant bites off a little too much.

The base plot is similar to other ones in the genre, such as RED, Wild Target or Hitman, but it intertwines this with a revenge subplot, a gangster subplot, and an origin story. And while it does manage to weave these strands well together, culminating in an enjoyable but surprisingly tepid finale, it doesn’t do so comfortably. The work feeling a little overstuffed.

Yet, I can’t complain too much, as each of these strands is done very well, being engaging in their own right. Nothing about the movie is bad, on the contrary, they all are very entertaining but it ruins the pacing of the movie, and distorts it. This bloating of the narrative takes it out of the comfortable position of action and into the realms of thriller that it doesn’t easily rest in.

As action goes, it’s exciting and engaging, never too flashy or overblown to feel unreal but lacks the visceral nature it seems to be going for. With the exception of one scene, with a mini-gun, it never goes too far from believability.

In terms of thriller, it has elements of the genre, giving us a deadline, a mystery, and some decent suspense but, all this is more of an afterthought. The twists and turns being a little too well foreshadowed, so that everyone will guess them by a third of the way through. Sprinkle this, with a mix of deadpan humour that comes at the cost of almost mocking the lead’s Autism, you have elements that well technically proficient and engaging, are sometimes too obvious and doesn’t excite me as much as it should of.

But all of this, are nitpicks, really.

The Accountant is more than worth your time, loaded with good actors, a solid story that is a bit more than your usual action fare, subversive ideas, a theme of owning your ‘disability’, and just some excellent cinematography, that I have to recommend it.

Be it action, thriller or something else entirely, The Accountant is a solid addition to any genre.

A-

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[Warning: if you really, really care; the following review describes scenes that some people might call ‘spoilers’. Chances are, in this kind of film, it doesn’t really matter to you, so read on.]

As a real life accountant by day, I feel like I am more qualified than most to review Gavin O’Connor’s The Accountant, little did I know the movie was more ‘Bank Job’ than ‘Bank Reconciliation’, more ‘Blood Loss’ than ‘Profit & Loss’, ‘Boxing’ than ‘Taxing’. Actually come to think of it, parts of this supremely fun-action finance drama were quite ‘Taxing’. Luckily for you, I also have a second white-belt in Karate (the one they give you after paying for more than 3 lessons), so you’re still in good hands.

For me, I enjoyed this movie more than nearly every other film I have seen in 2016. That being said, it was rather like the way you might enjoy a rollercoaster more intensely than a home-made dinner with your partner; it’s good in a meaningless way, but when you’re lying on your death-bed, you’re not going to be wishing you spent more time trying to hold the vomit on Space Mountain 2.

Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, an autistic serial killer with the outgoing personality of an unusually subdued traffic cone enthusiast, or what you and I might refer to as your regular, run-of-the-mill accountant.

Mr. Wolff’s idea of a good time is cleaning up your local drug cartel’s money laundering history before sneaking in through the back door and kicking some well-laundered drug cartel ass and blaming it on the treasury department. Think of it like how Batman beats up the baddies and hands it to the cops and they thank him, only instead of ‘Batman’ it’s an autistic accountant with a black belt in headshots and instead of ‘beating up the baddies and handing them to the cops’, it’s ‘murdering dozens of tough-guys and blackmailing the treasury into claiming responsibility’.

Here is where the film gets a little messy. I loved the action, I liked the relationships, I even liked the financial auditing section, but for some reason, someone seems to have accidentally cut in an entire made-for-TV cop investigation flick. I genuinely believe Gavin O’Connor bumped into J.K. Simmons after receiving his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and decided he wanted to give him a supporting role that was impossible to garner critical acclaim.

I don’t understand why they would put so much effort in to making a film that was all about how a man with such intense focus can single handedly crack any seemingly insurmountable challenge by understanding every speck of detail until the whole picture can be solved (see Jigsaw puzzle analogy at the beginning of the movie) just so that we can watch Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), a trainee treasury administrator stumble around in the dark making grand speculative leap after grand speculative leap just to come to the correct conclusion as if it was some kind of skill.

Contrary to Wolff’s meticulous scanning through years of documented papers in search of a clue, Marybeth literally Googles the top 100 mathematicians (whatever the hell that means?) and guesses a man whose sole purpose is to find clumsy, seemingly-random patterns left behind by criminals has been using the clumsiest, least-random set of pseudonyms ever.

Thankfully the script works in a total contrast to reality for this section of the movie so Marybeth does find the lead she’s looking for before stating without a doubt that a man who has been laundering money through a hairdressing salon must be the serial killer because, well the movie has enough time to come up with some answers not to question them! I can’t say I should expect more, I mean they only have 45 minutes to build a dramatic arc and even then it’s split up by adverts for life insurance every 15 minutes.

I got through the worst so that you can try and comprehend that my final paragraph should be taken with a pinch of b-grade Law & Order salt. The action and interesting character perspective are thoroughly entertaining, if not a little predictable, and the twists and turns in this John Wick-styled auditing drama had me laughing, wide-eyed with awe and invested enough to forgive it for its trespasses. When I can have it in some form of virtual media so that I can fast-forward through anything to do with the treasury (sorry Mr. Simmons, I’m usually a big fan), I’ll give this movie an A, but as it stands?

B+

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2 thoughts on “The Accountant Review

  1. Good review. Personally, I thought this movie was okay. Affleck was great in it and some other nuances were interesting, but a lot of it felt generic for its genre. The story was bit convoluted at times and some of the twists I did see coming. Plus, the whole side story with Simmons’s character was a bit superfluous.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: 2016 in [Big Picture] Review | Big Picture Reviews

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