Number-loving, nerdy, ingenious and socially awkward are not typical characteristics of a trained assassin. On top of this unconventionality, picture a bulked up, hunky Ben Affleck (“Batman v Superman”) emulating these traits while accurately firing a sniper and snapping necks with ease. The idea that a literal accountant, a job typically not glorified in action movies, is capable of Jason Bourne-esque fighting capabilities is hilarious. Everyone knows a real life accountant, and they are likely not the first person to come to mind when thinking of a possible action movie star. Essentially, this is what makes “The Accountant” entertaining, but mostly hard to grasp.
Gavin O’Connor’s (“Warrior”) “The Accountant” focuses on a rogue accountant — or rather, hitman — hired by criminal enterprises. The plot thickens once he is pursued in a cat and mouse chase by the U.S. Treasury Department. Although it sounds original and potentially invigorating, “The Accountant” ’s narrative relies too much on showing a bunch of complicated events and then later trying to explain and find reasoning behind them. Because of this failed technique, the story feels unclear and unnecessarily confusing at times, and suspenseful moments never feel resolved or satisfying.
Ben Affleck stars as Christian Wolff, the gun-wielding titular character who has autism. Beyond Affleck, the movie boasts a stacked lineup, featuring J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”) as an executive of the Treasury Department, Anna Kendrick (“Pitch Perfect”) as a fellow accountant and Jeffrey Tambor (“The Hangover”) as Wolff’s old crime guru and prison inmate. The performances are adequate enough but lack any true development. “The Accountant” is far from a character study, but viewers still won’t feel deeply for any character. Flashbacks involving Wolff’s complicated childhood struggles with autism act as a cop out for any real character development in the movie’s timeline and reinforce the aforementioned “show then tell” narrative technique. Affleck’s performance, although decent, fails to convince the viewer that an actual accountant could be enough of a badass to successfully pull off long-range sniping or lethal hand-to-hand combat.
The larger-than-life abilities of the titular accountant suggest great potential to carry the movie into groundbreaking territory within the action genre. However, by the end, Wolff isn’t even an accountant anymore, wasting the most original aspect of the movie. In the many action scenes of “The Accountant,” you forget that you aren’t watching another typical action movie starring a macho, hyper-masculine protagonist. What feels fresh in the beginning becomes tedious by the end, and the idea that Wolff ever was a ‘lower-case a’ accountant is abandoned.
Autism plays a central role in the movie, but it doesn’t characterize Affleck’s role in a genuine way. Wolff is portrayed as a sociopathic killing machine incapable of developing personal relationships with others. Although a few scenes introduce the idea that he could be capable of forming typical feelings for others, his autism is ultimately used as a scapegoat to divert any attention away from this humanization. Stereotypes of autism –– lack of empathy, obsessive nature, etc. –– characterize Wolff as an antihero rather than a well-rounded protagonist.
It hasn’t been the best year for Affleck. With the critical failure of “Batman v Superman” and the agonizing “sad Affleck” meme, “The Accountant” will not resurrect him from the dark depths of meme culture. It also won’t lead to more scrutiny. The movie is just mediocre enough for him to avoid publicly drawing the shame that he did with “Batman v Superman.”
All accountants feeling uncool will rejoice after watching “The Accountant.” Finally, a movie that doesn’t feed into another joke about how lame and boring their jobs are. They will, however, be some of the only people rejoicing after watching the movie. “The Accountant” is far from a failed action movie, but it is empty entertainment, nonetheless.