THE ACCOUNTANT Review
Director: Gavin O’Connor
As the lights in the theatre came up, I turned to my girlfriend in awe. “I thought they stopped making films like this with the turn of the millennium,” I said. She laughed in approval and we continued to sit for a second, letting Gavin O’Connor’s THE ACCOUNTANT properly sink in. Now I’m not one to dismiss a goofy action film. To O’Connor’s credit, he has managed to deliver an action-adventure that feels just as much a spy film as it does a superhero epic, and though the entire thing is rendered obsolete by its completely ludicrous title, THE ACCOUNTANT does have a little bit going for it, only to flush it all down the toilet near the end.
Ben Affleck plays the world’s richest man with autism: a mathematical wizard who cooks the books for the world’s most dangerous men. Premise aside, it really doesn’t take long to realize why THE ACCOUNTANT is destined to fall apart: Our hero is a hyper-sensitive introvert with the body of a Greek God. It’s what I like to call BLACKHAT syndrome; the instance in which a character has the brain of Einstein and the combat skills of GI Joe. Maybe I’m a negative nancy for trying to criticize the film’s more noble intentions of showing that a man with high functioning autism can still be a cool hero character, but the tone of the film needs to be set to the average viewer’s suspension of disblief, not vice-versa. Nonetheless, I began to notice that THE ACCOUNTANT had the potential to be good despite its wonky foundation, but largely failed for reasons apart from its protagonist.
Hot Hot Hot Hot Hot!
You see, O’Connor is 30 years late to the game. If I were to write up a full synopsis to this film, you’d be hard-pressed to claim that it was released post-1990 — and that isn’t a bad thing. THE ACCOUNTANT is littered with ludicrous plot twists, and temporally jumps with no rhyme or reason. It’s a film that’s been reverse-engineered from its ending, resulting in narrative contrivances that feel so distinctly retro that they have to be taken with a grain of salt. And frankly, I’d be fine with that, if only O’Connor were as well. Instead, THE ACCOUNTANT takes itself far too seriously. Oddly enough, the culprit to all this wrongdoing is everyone but Ben Affleck.
Delivering a tastefully subdued performance, Affleck is never the loud, out-of-control child that he is during his flashbacks. His quiet, monotone line delivery adds a comedic punch to many of his scenes with Anna Kendrick that are sorely lacking throughout the rest of the film, and his hulking, post-BATMAN V. SUPERMAN body juxtaposes nicely with the film’s attempt to ape the qualities of a superhero film. But when these two leads are not on screen, viewers have to listen to bland exposition dumps from J.K Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson. These needlessly serious narrative beats kept me from reaffirming the peculiar notion that THE ACCOUNTANT is aiming to be goofy entertainment. And that’s the real problem, because when THE ACCOUNTANT is good, I’m laughing with it, but when it’s bad, I can’t help but laugh at it.
As if AMERICAN SNIPER weren’t already problematic enough…
The reckless game of flashback hopscotch that O’Connor plays with his audience forces us to piece together a puzzle that really isn’t as difficult as the film implies. It’s a cheap editing tactic that helps viewers believe that they’ve unearthed some complex conspiracy, when in fact the story was only difficult because important pieces of backstory hadn’t been revealed yet. Everyone during these flashbacks, from Jeffrey Tambor’s affable criminal, to young Ben Affleck’s father and brother vary so sporadically in tone that THE ACCOUNTANT never settles for how straight it wants to play itself. Scenes of Ben Affleck learning how to be an undercover accountant, albeit bland, are serviceable; those of an autistic child being told to fight against an Asian man feel like something out of a parody of the same film.
The fact of the matter remains that neither tone is bad, but had O’Connor opted for complete absurdity his film would have at least been consistently entertaining. THE ACCOUNTANT is never bad. Its film photography is occasionally gorgeous, and its performances are solid. Sadly, it’s never creative with its action choreography or its staging. Yes, it’s filled with hokey characters, awful one-liners and plot twists that take you back to the days where Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme dominated the silver screen, but that could have been a good thing. Had O’Connor directed the film a couple decades ago, it surely would be in people’s hearts today, but in the current cinematic climate, it feels like a tired effort that can’t seem to ground itself due to it’s own insecurities.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend