For a film with a bland title, you’d expect a fast, exciting, thrilling story and characters to go with it. Instead, you’re given a predictable and questionable film with a group of stereotypical 2D characters and a strange way of portraying a person with autism. Oh, and of course, lots of mathematical talk.
This complicated film begins with a multiple homicide, the relevance of which doesn’t become clear until later on in the film. The story starts with Chris being diagnosed with a high-functioning form of autism and offered a place at an institute where he can be cared for and treated. But his military-minded father forbids it, resulting in his mother leaving them and Chris’s younger brother Braxton. Cut to the present day, and Christian is an accountant and a genius with numbers. But his clients include notorious criminals as well as ‘everyday folk.’ Chris leads a minimal lifestyle, self-treating himself to deal with things he can’t cope with, such as flashing lights and loud noises. Elsewhere, the FBI are trying to find out who this ‘accountant’ is but have been unsuccessful due to all the photographs they have of him either being blurred or him not looking at the camera. Agent Ray King wants to solve this case before he retires so he enlists, or rather blackmails, treasury analyst Marybeth Medina to help him. Meanwhile, Chris has been hired by Living Robotics to audit their books after an accountant discovers something amiss. After finding the answer in record time, it is clear someone has been embezzling money, and it is from here that all avenues link up. Sort of.
Where to begin with this convoluted plot and how it plays out. The film introduces characters where their actions directly contradict their own motives. There are moments where it feels as if a breadcrumb is being left out for Chris to follow, which makes him seem like he knows everything. He doesn’t have super powers, he has had a traumatic childhood and has a condition where he hasn’t had any support.
The film is also meant to have a couple of ‘big’ reveals that are obvious from the start, which makes this ‘thriller’ seems more like the actors are just going through the motions. The only person who does seem to be putting in some effort is Jon Bernthal, who has an emotional, if not soppy, one-sided conversation near the end, but at least he shows that he’s committed to the role unlike anybody else. I’m sure Ben Affleck would have been more enthusiastic but his character prevented him from doing so.
With a stale, predictable story that think it has brought something new to the big screen by making the lead character autistic and ‘badass’ as well, everything suffers. The character could have been great if it wasn’t for the several unclear choices made. Why did Chris and Brax’s father treat them so horrifically? If Ray knew what was going on, why even bother blackmailing Medina? Why was the FBI keeping quiet about Chris? What exactly was the point of Anna Kendrick in this story? Why did Chris write on the glass windows at Living Robotics? There was plenty of paper on the desk. But I suppose we’ll never know.
Dir: Gavin O’Connor
Scr: Bill Dubuque
Prd: Lynette Howell Taylor, Mark Williams
Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, John Lithgow
DoP: Seamus McGarvey
Music: Mark Isham
Running time: 128 minutes
The Accountant is out on DVD on March 13th.