by Toby Woollaston
Starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrik, and J.K. Simmons, The Accountant is a bit Rain Man, a bit A Beautiful Mind, a hint of X-Men, and a whole heap James Bond … if Bond had autism (actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if ol’ Jimmy was on the spectrum). So, what’s not to like?
Well, I’ll begin with the plot which is bloated, full of holes, and quite ludicrous. I’m sure the script by Bill Dubuque (The Judge) was written in red ink. Let me break it down for you a little; Christian Wolff (Affleck) has high functioning autism. He gets taught from a young age some sort of martial art in Indonesia, grows up and becomes an accountant. Why? Because he is good with numbers, of course – he’s got autism remember, and if Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that autistic people have to be good with numbers. But it transpires that he’s actually cooking the books for some bad guys and the government are after him. Hang on, so he’s a baddie then? Not really, he conveniently slots into a grey area. As his dad puts it, he is “different” – neither good or bad, a robot, if you like. Meanwhile, he becomes a lethal killing machine, mechanically accurate with a gun – he has to be mechanically accurate … he’s got autism, remember. He proceeds to go on a rampage and kill said baddies, you know the drill (I’ll stop short of the two big plot twists, but they’re fairly well telegraphed).
As you might have picked up through my tone, the film’s treatment of autism, although fairly accurate symptomatically, is a little on-the-nose. As Wolff explains, he has trouble understanding others’ perspectives, and does not understand irony. The irony here is that The Accountant uses a formulaic approach to expound embracing the different. It pumps out every cliche about autism we’ve ever come across in previous films and re-issues them under the banner of “being different”.
Perhaps I’m being a little too critical of a film that’s just trying to entertain. There are some genuinely good moments, and it looks very pretty. Affleck does a commendable job, as do his supporting cast, although plot complications render their talent under-utilised. However, the problem is the premise is just too hard to swallow, and unfortunately this is what the film tries to make you do.
Perhaps The Accountant can cook your books, if safe formulaic entertainment is your bag. I tried to like it, but I just couldn’t get the ledger to balance.
Star rating: 2.5/5
See the published review here.
Next week I review Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals