Slow Start, Poor Story Doom THE ACCOUNTANT Despite Winning Cast

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Ben Affleck in THE ACCOUNTANT, opening October 14, 2016.

Ben Affleck is an actor I probably ride harder than I should. He’s certainly not bad. I thought he was easily the best part of BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, but I suppose that’s not the strongest endorsement. Seriously, though, he’s quite capable of great performances and his ability behind the lens may even be better. Sadly, he was not behind the lens for THE ACCOUNTANT.

With a few exceptions, Hollywood seems incapable of telling a story that is interesting from the start. THE ACCOUNTANT spends roughly the entire first half of the movie flashing back through the life of Affleck’s Christian Wolff, a high-functioning autistic whose mother left him as a child and his father, conveniently a special forces-type operative for the military, trains his sons (the non-autistic Brax, played by John Bernthal, recently of Marvel’s DAREDEVIL on Netflix) in all manner of combat and preparedness. Wolff grows up to be an accountant, playing to his particular skill with numbers, who as you might expect plays a little fast and loose with some less savory types for whom he might dabble in a bit of money laundering. He’s an autistic accountant who can shoot tiny gourds from a mile away with a sniper rifle. Thus we have RAINMAN meets RAMBO. I love RAINMAN. I enjoy RAMBO. I didn’t care much for their strange offspring. 

I wanted to. I find the whole spectrum of autism very interesting. I would have been fine with a film that explored a high functioning autistic child growing up and finding a place in the workaday adult world that many never quite manage to achieve. I likewise would have been fine with a straight forward shoot-‘em-up action flick. Director Gavin O’Connor and screen writer Bill Dubuque tried to marry the two and as happens in Hollywood so often, it was something of a sham marriage. As believable as this “ode to Raymond Babbitt” character was, the backstory did not need to be that thoroughly vetted for what the plot ultimately becomes. What disappoints me the most is that the shoot-‘em-up is really so easy to do. Look at Liam Neeson’s iconic role in TAKEN. He’s a father and a divorcee (or were they just separated at that point?) who just wants to make his family as happy as he possibly can. He also is a legit badass secret ops guy, because that is a career choice one could aspire too though one wouldn’t think autism would lend itself to that as was the case in THE ACCOUNTANT. Not more than 10 minutes into the movie, Neeson’s darling daughter and her friend are kidnapped, and he gives the most chilling summation of a movie plot in the history of cinema. Bam! There ya go—you know what he’s about, you had the inciting incident, and now you know what’s coming—Liam Neeson and a ton of bodies in his wake. You get that too with Affleck to an extent, by the time it comes you’re either asleep from starring into the muted tones of the film’s drowsy palette, or you just don’t care and are more interested in watching RAINMAN again.

The supporting cast is strangely underwhelming as well. Gorgeous Cynthia Addai-Robinson plays an aspiring Treasury Department Analyst tabbed by aging veteran field agent J.K. Simmons (who’s always good) to be his protégé, but she’s almost never directly in pursuit. They are so marginalized by the script that they aren’t even really necessary at all. John Lithgow plays a scheming tycoon named Lamar Black (because black=villain, get it? I wish I didn’t) looking to bump off a quirky and adorable wunderkind Dana Cummings, played by the quirky and adorable Anna Kendrick, which is pretty weak villainous motivation for a veteran bad guy like Lithgow. Affleck and Kendrick have decent chemistry, but again, just as the two start feeling like more of a dynamic duo, the script benches her with a Dear John note. The plot devices used for every twist were obvious. Maybe they’ll get to improve their chemistry of Affleck agrees to her request to play Robin in his upcoming film, THE BATMAN.

Will you like THE ACCONTANT? Sure, if you like Affleck and can turn off your critical thinking centers in your brain for the rather robust running time. If you’re the type that sees every plot hole or gets bored or narcoleptic at languidly paced films, this is not going to be a good flick for you. I can’t help but wonder if I’d have liked it more had Affleck directed it himself. THE ACCOUNTANT is a lackluster mishmash of mismatched story elements that failed to pique my interest from the start and never earned it along the way. Look for better options this weekend, and pick it up at your local red box in about a month or two.

Grade: 
1.5 / 5.0