Watching The Accountant is one of the most frustrating theatrical experiences I’ve had this year. On one hand, there are moments of amazing schlock where everything comes together in terms of tone, humor and action that is an absolute blast to watch on the big screen and with a big crowd, but then there are other moments that are a total slog to sit through. It’s like two movies were haphazardly stitched together, so nothing really connects in a way that resonates or feels meaningful.
There’s an incredible scene fairly early on where I felt like the movie completely won me over. At this point, it’s been a mostly deathly serious drama, focusing on the strained father-son relationship between Chris (Seth Lee when a kid, Ben Affleck when older) and his father (Robert C. Treveiler). Chris has autism, but his father is a military man, and given that this was many years ago, he doesn’t know much about mental illnesses and is afraid for his son. It leads him wanting to teach his son how to handle the cruelty that he felt the world would put him through, simply because he was different. It’s a challenging and complex relationship. One where the father is basically a dictionary definition of toxic masculinity, but there’s an empathy to his portrayal. You can see how much he loves his son, but he can only teach him what he knows and what he knows is a life of violence.
And then we cut to young Chris training with some martial arts master at his dojo Batman Begins style. No, I am not making this up.
It’s probably one of the funniest things I’ve seen this year, and it lets you know that this is a movie that knows it’s dealing with a silly premise and is actively inviting the audience to have fun with it. It knows that it’s schlock, but it presents it with a straight face; never resorting to cheap winks at the audience or poking fun at itself. This was the point where I got it, and was excited for what was to come.
However, as a work of well-crafted schlock with a Hollywood gloss, it somehow manages to underdeliver. It takes its compelling premise and bogs it down under a lot of needlessly convoluted plotting. The storytelling in this film is far from economic, it has a lot of moving parts, a couple reveals and a subplot involving investigators, Ray King (J.K. Simmons) and Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai Robinson), trying to figure out who this mysterious accountant is that has so many deadly clients from around the world.
Oh, and by the way, the whole subplot with the investigation? Completely superfluous. In fact, the film makes one of the most bizarre story choices I’ve seen in a long time by never having the investigators cross paths with Chris at any point in the story. Again, not making any of this up. Another element that feels oddly superfluous is Anna Kendrick as Dana, an accountant for a tech company that finds herself as the target of the deadly Brax (Jon Bernthal). Her charisma and screen presence does a lot in making the character fun and her back-and-forth with Affleck’s Chris Wolff is really charming. However, it’s a thankless role with nothing to it. It’s a character that could easily be re-written out of the film without anything being truly affected. She’s not even in the final act except for one scene at the very end that’s only there for closure’s sake. I could even say the same about Brax. Jon Bernthal plays him with a smug confidence that works really well, but the film introduces something regarding his character that comes out of nowhere. It comes and goes without any consequence or resonance. It’s yet another bizarre story choice that isn’t founded on any place of logical plotting or emotion. It’s there simply to be a “gotcha!” moment from the movie and literally nothing else.
If I could compare The Accountant to anything, it would likely be John Wick. John Wick is another silly premise with slick production value, but that film understood streamlined, economic storytelling. It doesn’t waste a second, and even during its worldbuilding moments it combines it with character building. The Accountant wastes a lot of time. It wastes our time with subplots that have zero relevance to our titular character, it wastes our time with “twists” that effect nothing, characters that do nothing, and a nonsense plot about the ins-and-outs of making a private tech company go public. It takes what should’ve been a fairly simple and effective thriller and turns it into a bore. It would’ve also helped if the action was inventive, but it’s mostly generic gunplay.
I don’t think I’ve seen such a waste of a good, original concept since Hancock. Granted, The Accountant is a far better film than Hancock, and one that could reasonably be considered a passable action film. There are plenty of legit great moments. Moments that are funny, moments that are intense and moments that are powerful (there’s one moment in particular with J.K. Simmons that might just be the single best piece of acting I’ve ever seen from him). But that’s the problem, it’s just moments. I think it’s great that we have an autistic action hero in a film that doesn’t resort to cheap jokes or any exploitative nonsense at his expense, but I wish the movie around him did his character and the concept justice. 55/100