Movie Review: Ben Affleck uncovers more than shady record keeping in ‘The Accountant’
If it wasn’t playing in theaters nationwide, “The Accountant” would sound like a bad lie told poorly. Its “Bourne Identity”-meets-“Rain Man” premise feels like the kind of movie that should be playing on a double-bill with “Asses of Fire” in South Park, Colo., or at the very least, a starring vehicle for Ben Stiller’s dim action star from “Tropic Thunder.”
In short, it doesn’t seem like a film that exists but rather a joke that was photoshopped. Yet, as real as “The Accountant” may be, it still functions as a goofy, muddled, overly complicated joke, but a pretty entertaining one.
In the film, Ben Affleck plays the titular accountant, a high functioning autistic who “uncooks the books” for several dangerous criminal organizations while under the guise of an unassuming, small town CPA. If that sounds drab, don’t worry, he’s also a highly skilled mercenary capable of shooting a frowny faced cantaloupe with his sniper rifle from well over a mile away.
With a Treasury Department official (J.K. Simmons) and his assistant (Cynthia Addai-Robinson, whose character seems to have taken the Nev Schulman school of detection, in that all of her detective work revolves around her basic knowledge of Google image search) nipping at his heels, Affleck briefly puts his shady dealings on hold in order to find the missing money at a robotics company run by John Lithgow.
Yet as Affleck unlocks the mystery behind the misplaced funds, he finds himself caught in a vast, convoluted and nonsensical conspiracy that revolves around money laundering, ’80s electronic store king Crazy Eddie and Jon Bernthal as a chatty, wisecracking hitman. Along the way, Affleck meets fellow accountant (Anna Kendrick) who is drawn to Affleck’s inability to look her in the eye.
Reportedly, “The Accountant” was originally supposed to be directed by the Coen Brothers and as you watch the movie, it’s easy to see what may have attracted them to the project in the first place. It’s an off-kilter action movie with frequent and very sudden tonal shifts.
Sometimes it’s a grim, spy thriller, sometimes it’s a lighter; almost Marvel Studios inspired superhero movie and sometimes it’s a romantic comedy. But whereas the Coens could wrangle all of these disparate elements into a cohesive whole, Gavin O’Connor’s direction is discursive, awkward and lacks the subversive, satirical edge the Coens could have brought to the project.
On the plus side, “The Accountant” is so unintentionally silly it works more than it doesn’t. For example, Jeffrey Tambor pops up as a neurotic prison inmate which should cause any “Arrested Development” fan in the audience to shout, “No touching” at the screen; a school for the developmentally disabled doubles as a sort of secret crime-fighters lair and a series of drawn out, weirdly convenient third-act twists that force Simmons to wear a terrible wig and weep into the camera.
A sequel is implied at the end of “The Accountant.” It would be interesting to see where this franchise could go, should it ever earn one. With the premise established and the groundwork essentially laid, “The Accountant” has the potential to grow goofier with each passing sequel. In other words, “The Accountant” is fine but “The Accountant 2: In the Red” should probably be the one you see first. Just give it three years or so and then wait another year to watch it on Netflix. It should be worth the wait.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Weekender Rating: WWW
Length: 128 minutes