sun 15/12/2019

The Accountant | reviews, news & interviews

The Accountant

The Accountant

Gavin O'Connor's thriller has lots of good stuff undone by a silly ending

Number crunchers: Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick

You could begin to wonder if The Accountant is part of a game of one-upmanship between Ben Affleck and his old buddy Matt Damon. If Matt can strike it big with Jason Bourne, the amnesiac super-lethal assassin, Ben can go one better – Christian Wolff, an autistic accountant and super-lethal assassin!  

That this movie is as enjoyable as it is is down to Affleck going beyond being merely strong and silent into an understatement almost as stylised and codified as Noh theatre. He lets slip sly one-liners as barely audible afterthoughts ("sorry," he murmurs, after interrupting an ongoing conversation by shooting someone in the head). In moments of intense danger, high drama or imminent sexual interaction, he wears the expression of a man reminding himself he needs to buy some milk and cat food on the way home.

Director Gavin O'Connor holds you in his skilfully wrought grip while you're watching his film, but it starts to unravel when you think about it later. For instance, is it really likely that a boy suffering from autism who erupts into screaming, china-smashing hysterics when he can't find the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle would grow up to be the invisible, untraceable genius who masterminds the book-keeping of drug cartels and terrorist organisations? Would such a fragile youth also survive the bullying regime of his father, a hard-assed army officer specialising in psychological warfare who forced him and his younger brother through brutal routines of unarmed combat?

On the other hand, the idea that his inclination to focus obsessively on a narrowly defined objective might make him a natural at scrutinising volumes of figures does make sense, while his inability to socialise would tend to make him less of a security risk than more gregarious folks. There's a lovely early scene where we see Wolff at his supposed day job, as the proprietor of humble ZZZ Accounting in a suburban shopping mall in Illinois, as he gently, and almost silently, nudges an elderly couple into claiming a little more tax relief than they'd ever dared to imagine.

Also defying you to pick holes in Bill Dubuque's screenplay is the way that at every turn in the plot, you come across another fine actor doing what they do best. When the US Treasury begins to feel suspicious about this mysterious figure who keeps popping up alongside some of the world's most wanted men, this news is delivered in the thunderous form of JK Simmons, playing the Treasury's Crime Enforcement supremo Ray King. Simmons's towering ability to intimidate rages at full blast as he recruits analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), blackmailing her into taking the job of tracking Wolff by revealing that he's read the supposedly sealed files containing her lurid police record. Yet later on, Simmons is able to play us some of the more reflective and autumnal phrases in his repertoire (Simmons and Addai-Robinson pictured above).

Smartly cast, too, is Anna Kendrick as Dana Cummings, whose savvy mix of nerdiness and resourcefulness makes her a sparky foil for the somewhat robotic Wolff. She's a junior accountant at the high-tech firm Living Robotics who has discovered a strange discrepancy in the company accounts. Ironically, Wolff's unseen handler has sent him on the Living Robotics job because it's low-key and unobtrusive, but it's here that his secret double life comes dangerously close to unravelling.

Additional ballast is supplied by Jon Bernthal as Brax (pictured above), a merciless mercenary who shapes up as Wolff's nemesis. Though thuggish and ultra-violent, he also displays caustic wit and erudition even while, for instance, battering the businessman who's been short-selling his client's stocks. And as the boss of Living Robotics, Lamar Blackburn, John Lithgow manages to inveigle a minor role into believing it's altogether grander and more nuanced.

You could forgive The Accountant most of its foibles if it didn't hinge on a late twist which can only be described as preposterous, and which fatally deflates the drama at a critical moment. It's as if  O'Connor suddenly stepped on a landmine and blew his brainchild to bits. Inexplicable, really.

Watch the trailer to The Accountant

Anna Kendrick's savvy mix of nerdiness and resourcefulness makes her a sparky foil for the somewhat robotic Wolff

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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