Who decided that going to an action movie nowadays had to be such a grinding experience and where can I go find them to punch them in the face.
Dark and gritty seems to be plastered to every blockbuster at the multiplex. There’s a time and a place for serious character examinations in big movies, but that doesn’t have to mean all of them. Some can just be a light and breezy escape into brooding action and charming characters.
Enter The Accountant, which boasts many of the latter qualities, but also feels tethered to the default, grim setting.
The film follows Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck), an accountant who works the books for criminals around the world and has also developed — to steal a line from Liam Neeson — a particular set of skills due to the rigorous training by his father. He also suffers from autism, which created a strife between his parents and was what pushed his father to train him and his brother to fight as a way to outlet his emotions after their mother left.
His latest job is for Lamar Black (John Lithgow), a CEO of a tech company who asks Christian to go through their books to make sure an alarm raised by Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) is nothing more than a mistake. To Christian and Dana’s surprise, the discrepancy uncoils a much larger plot — and one that doesn’t require long stretches of counting.
The Accountant lives between two worlds — one of the absurd and another in reality. It seems a little ridiculous to think of Affleck as an autistic math savant (who also seems to have kept his Batman muscles), but we accept the Hollywood reasoning and look past it. For the most part, this acceptance works to our advantage.
Affleck musters up some of the charm and fortitude of his friend Matt Damon and allows for the Jason Bourne-esque plot to unfold with entertaining consequences. It is much easier to buy Affleck as the action star due to his recent marriage to the superhero genre and The Accountant allows him to take the skills he learned there and implement them to a new story. When action happens, it carries many similar qualities to its contemporaries, but director Gavin O’Connor — along with Affleck — allow those sequences to flourish enough to catch your attention.
The issues with The Accountant lie less with the qualities it possesses, but with what the requirements set within the genre in modern Hollywood impose on it. The plot is outlandish and silly at times as Affleck’s alternative personas that he creates along with his line of work seem almost as preposterous as anything Jason Bourne comes up with, but we go along with it because he (and Anna Kendrick as Dana) are likable and charming together.
But, seemingly that isn’t enough, and it seeps into self-serious grandstanding quickly. Once it remembers how to have fun, it is easy to return there, but for the most part, it feels like it is never sure what kind of movie it wants to be. You can feel the influence of something like John Wick in the action sequences and the deadpan performance by Ben Affleck, but shifts into the darkness that is akin to a superhero origin story.
In multiple sequences, we are taken to flashbacks of Christian’s path and how he became the accounting warrior (that’s a first) that we see today, but the “character building” doesn’t feel necessary when you could just tell a straight story and entertain us. As the movie comes to an end, and the reason we stuck on the family becomes clear, it doesn’t resonate quite like they would hope.
It also doesn’t help to have a convoluted plot, and a side one containing J.K. Simmons and newcomer Cynthia Addai-Robinson feels pointless and confusing as a team of government officials tracking down Christian Wolff. It felt like a subplot that they wanted to turn into something much more meaningful, but forgot about halfway through and slapped another action sequence on instead.
The Accountant isn’t bad, but it never elevates itself to something memorable. Ben Affleck shows that he can carry a non-Batman action movie on his own and Gavin O’Connor directs a story that is odd and convoluted at times. The action is entertaining and there are sweet moments, but it never amounts to much.
In the end, The Accountant may need to make another pass.