Friday, November 25, 2016

Film Review: The Accountant

Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable 
Violence Mature
Vulgarity Mature
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Mature

Any movie that can make accounting thrilling deserves respect.

The Accountant follows Christian Wolff (Ben Aflleck), a high functioning autistic accountant.  As a child, it was recommended to Christian's father (Robert C. Trevelier), that the child be placed in a special school to deal with his difficulty in the everyday world.  Christian's father, a military man, instead decided to train the young Christian (Seth Lee) and his brother (Jake Presley) to face their pain and fight for themselves.  As Christian has grown up, he uses his accounting skills to aid several organized crime groups.

However, on a legitimate gig, Christian uncovers some irregularities with a tech company with the help of the in house accountant Dana (Anna Kendrick).  This seemingly innocuous job leads to violence and murder, as Christian begins to play cat and mouse with a mysterious hitman (Jon Berthnal).  At the same time, Christian is being pursued a Treasury agent Ray King (JK Simmons) and a brilliant analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson).

One of the things that makes The Accountant work is that it is fascinating.  It pulls you slowly into Christians world and you begin to see the things the way he does.  His life is so efficiently Spartan, like perfectly-synced gears of a watch.  And then we get to see Christian's hidden trailer where he stores his weapons, gold bars, and priceless works of art.  I admittedly geeked out when he opened a drawer and revealed a mint condition All-American Comics #1, the first appearance of the Golden Age Green Lantern.  (I'm glad the producers didn't limit themselves with the obvious choices of Action Comics #1 or Detective Comics #27).  But this fascination is not limited to the more action-oriented scenes.  Watching Christian work an accounting problem is like something of a cross between A Beautiful Mind and Sherlock.

And much of this excitement is done using only the visuals.  Director Gavin O'Connor does a fantastic job of drawing you in deeper and deeper.  Writer Bill Dubuque does a good job of giving us a story that is full of nice twists throughout.  Stories like this can only work if we identify with the main character, who is a killer.  The storytellers wisely give Christian a very strict, albeit non-traditional moral code.

Where the story is weakest is relationship between Christian and Dana.  The actors have good chemistry, but the budding romance could have been integrated better into the story, especially in the third act.

Speaking of the actors, Affleck once again delivers.  This year he has put in two outstanding performances, first as Bruce Wayne/Batman and now as Christian Wolfe.  Kendrick also bring her usual charisma, but she has much less story space to work in other than to be the love interest of the hero.  Bernthal is oddly charming and scary as the hitman.  We also have some nice smaller parts played very well by Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow, and Jean Smart.

The movie builds very nicely with some great action set pieces.  And while the third act is not bad or in any way poor, it does not push the intensity to the boiling point the way the rest of the movie builds.  There is a reason that the finales of most action movies end with big explosions.  It isn't simply the visual spectacle, its that there is a cathartic dynamic finale.  While the third act brings the action, I was hoping for a little more.

The movie does bring up some interesting ideas about the value of individual human lives.  Christian kills, but only according to his code.  And while this is problematic, you can see how he is doing the best he knows how based on his upbringing.  Some of the scenes of violence can be very disturbing, especially in one scene where someone is forced to commit suicide.  But there are some valuable insights into how people are not limited by their disability.

The Accountant is a rather exciting thriller that is definitely worth your time.

4 out of 5 stars

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