TL;DR – When people ask me what a close but no cigar film is I will now be able to use The Accountant as my go-to example, it’s an ok film, but it could have been so much more.
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
Review – The Accountant is a really interesting movie, it has one of the strongest cast in cinema at the moment, and has some fantastic set piece action sequences, and some really important representations. However, and I am sorry to have this however so close to the start, as a movie it just doesn’t quite work. So in this review, I am not just going to review the film, but also break down why the film just doesn’t work as well as it could have.
So before I go on I do have to mention that there are a lot of things that The Accountant does get right. Firstly it has a great cast lead by Ben Affleck who plays a Christian “Chris” Wolff who is a forensic accountant for specialist clientele including drug cartels etc. organised by an unseen lady that only talks only via phones. However, where Chris differs from a lot of other similar characters is that he is has a high-functioning form of autism. This is one of the areas that the film excels in because mental disorders rarely get a fair representation in film, they are at best a quirk of their character or at worse a shorthand for a serial murderer. It is clear that the filmmakers took the time to consult with experts to give a fair and dynamic presentation, but also a realistic on for the time. As well as Ben, the rest of the cast is great, I mean you have Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal and John Lithgow, you really can’t go wrong with a cast like this. As well as this The Accountant has a great premise, the action is really good, you get glimpses of John Wick in there, I mean it’s not that good, but it is getting there. There are a lot of little moments that just work, like the fact that he keeps anything of value in a waggon so he can leave at a moment’s notice, or how even though his accounting business is a cover he still helps people out.
However, while there are a lot of things that works there is just so much that just doesn’t. The main area that The Accountant just does not work in, is in the construction of the narrative or at least how it was all edited together for the final film. Now I do need to say that even though I am about to tear the story apart, there may not be a single cause, as there could have been studio pressure, it could be a case of not knowing there was a problem with editing and at that point key cast could have been unavailable for reshoots, or a number of other reasons. So to do this we are going to have to break down the story and that will mean that we will need to [ENGAGE SPOILERS] for the rest of the review.
In many respects, this film feels really padded, and you can’t help but see that with the Treasury Department sub-plot. The plot of Raymond “Ray” King (J.K. Simmons) and Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) teaming up to hunt down Chris Wolff is just a waste of screen time as it does nothing to forward the plot. Chris leaves not because of the Treasury but because his current job blows up. So, in the end, they just spend the whole film playing catch up and nothing really comes to it. This means that it becomes really apparent that all that time could have either been better spent on other sections of the story or it really needed to be integrated into the narrative much better. I say all this even with J.K. Simmons leading this section, who is one the best character actors on screen at the moment. This whole sub-plot feels like they were seeding something for a sequel, but they did it at the expense of the current film.
The next misstep is the brother’s plot line that threads throughout the movie building to the big un-reveal at the end of the film. The movie keeps playing on the fact that these two characters Braxton (Jon Bernthal) and Chris (Ben Affleck) are similar in both profession and in skill and the movie is preparing you for these two foes to collide together, but then they don’t, because they are brothers. Actually, this part of the film is actually quite brilliant, as it would be contrived to have them fight it out with everything we learn about them. But the big problem is that the film plays it straight like it was a surprise for the audience to find out that they are brothers. However, it is so apparent right from the start that I was actually confused about how they related to the plot ‘oh they’re working together, one does the accounting the other does the elimination … wait what … they don’t work together … oh, that’s what this film is doing”. If the film had been clear with this from the start I think they could have leveraged it a bit more for the conclusion and that would have given it more weight.
Finally just some small things, they had too much of the father or not enough, here it just felt like an intrusion after showing the mother leave. You have a roof mounted a machine gun, and you don’t use it, what a shame. While it was good to show autism on screen positively I do feel they needed to explain a little be more clearly what was happening in some scenes like the light flashing, sound blasting scene. Also while you had a strong cast, I don’t feel you got the most of your supporting cast.
Look while I have been quite negative here, that’s only because this movie had so much potential, it could have been another John Wick, but it just does not come together. But thankfully what is there is quite good, so even with all its problems I can give The Accountant a recommendation.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by – Gavin O’Connor
Written by – Bill Dubuque
Music by – Mark Isham
Starring – Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jeffrey Tambor, Jean Smart & John Lithgow
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; NZ: R; UK: 15; USA: R