My current running measure of enthusiasm and pleasant surprise compared to dollars spent in movie theatres so far this year has been abysmal. Now I’ve seen good films, but they have all been streamed illegally because at this point I get nervous giving someone $8 to $12 to sit with strangers in the dark and be inevitably disappointed.
Lo and behold, I was quite surprised to see numbers on the board for 2016 theatre satisfaction from a Ben Affleck side project, of all things. The Accountant isn’t a perfect film, but few films are in my critical and often pretentiously stringent eyes. Yet it does enough right that for once I’m going to write a film review that recommends not assassinating the director and studio responsible for the project.
The Accountant follows Christian Wolf (Ben Affleck), a genius forensic accountant and lethal combat expert who, in a humanising turn, is also diagnosed with autism. Ben Affleck delivers a fantastic performance, on the scale of what Ben Affleck as an actor is capable of — not Heath Ledger but definitely on par with current-era Matt Damon. The character is deep enough for the story, a loner who wants to connect with others but faces the obstacles of his diagnosis and his murder-ridden career.
Let’s cover the problems first. It’s great that there is an action protagonist that kids with autism can look up to, however while the film handles its depiction and explanation beautifully, it also has a bad habit of constantly name dropping the diagnosis. In a 128 minute runtime you hear the world mentioned enough in scenes where it seemed unnecessary that you’ll wonder what sort of awards the film is trying to win. I appreciate subtlety because if overdone it will sound like pandering.
The side story of a team of feds trying to track down Christian is handled poorly. It is given too much screen time with not enough progression or information. A flashback sequence on a couch with J.K. Simmons tries to tie it in and make it relevant, but the entire film would probably benefit without the B plot. Also, Anna Kendrick was shoehorned into this movie as a love interest in a way only a committee of out of touch producers could insist upon. Not only is it an unnecessary distraction, but it forces the audience to watch Anna Kendrick act for a solid 20 minutes or so. Brutal.
Jon Bernthal wasn’t terrible, but he delivers the low effort Shane-from-the-Walking-Dead-esque mumble performance that he’s developed as a fallback. Similar to Tom Hardy’s withdrawn grumble man seen in many feature films and television projects, it’s a character that is safe, expected, and can draw audiences in without too many surprises. Don’t expect as much energy and depth as his recent stint as the Punisher.
I promised it wasn’t all bad, but some of the reasons I liked this movie might spoil you, so I’ll give praises where possible. The comedic touches from Affleck are gold; I’ve never laughed as hard as I did immediately after a murder. The action choreography is intense. Also something I’ve never expected to point out, the sound work is amazing. There is a scene in the final act of the film involving a sniper rifle being shot into a home that is terrifying and actually makes you feel bad for the antagonists. Overall, you can easily make a worse decision than seeing The Accountant. At the very least, give it a chance on Netflix in five months.