Movie Review: The Accountant

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

8 Heavy Sighs out of 10

“The Accountant,” starring Ben Affleck as the titular character, is a great action-thriller even if it’s often mired down by its own lack of focus. Its action sequences are fast, brutal and just as engaging as they need to be, while its performances all at the very least work. Affleck carries the film in the lead role, but it’s Jon Bernthal whose performance stuck with me. That aside, it does have an issue with focusing on what’s relevant to the story it wants to tell. It keeps “The Accountant” from being a truly excellent movie, but watching it is still a great time and it’s definitely an improvement over your standard action-thriller fare.

The film revolves around the autistic Christian Wolff (Affleck), a mathematical genius, and because of training by his veteran father, an excellent killer. He makes his living taking advantage of both of those skills; uncooking the books of criminal organizations that are experiencing internal embezzlement. It’s an interesting concept, but it creates a difficult role that has to be engaging or the film simply wouldn’t work. Thankfully Affleck delivers, and despite saying and emoting very little throughout the film, he manages to make you care about his character. J. K. Simmons plays a comfortable role as the world weary director of financial crimes, and Anna Kendrick is serviceable as both the straight man and love interest. Jon Bernthal on the other hand is a great casting, taking a character that could have been very unlikable and instead makes him as charismatic as he needed to be. On top of that, he’s great at displaying raw overwhelming emotion and that’s what really brings gravity to the climactic scene of the film.

It’d be difficult to discuss “The Accountant” without at some point comparing it to 2014’s “John Wick.” They possess similar plots, but more importantly they have to do almost identical things to work. “John Wick” is heavily focused on its titular character, and its world building and pacing reflect that. It efficiently shows us a world around the protagonist and ensures that every scene furthers his narrative. That’s what makes “John Wick” an incredibly memorable action flick, and it’s also the greatest failing of “The Accountant.” It simply has too many narratively vestigial plates spinning and the film suffers for it. It frequently slows the pacing to a crawl and it forces the film to spend time developing characters whose existence just doesn’t serve the narrative. And I’m not saying any of the subplots in “The Accountant” are downright bad, because they aren’t. They’re engaging stories and in another film they could have worked, but in the context of “The Accountant,” they’re just distractions that make the film feel much longer than it is.

But “The Accountant” also does a lot of things right, one of which is its action scenes. Also much like “John Wick,” the titular accountant is brutally efficient, clearing entire rooms of enemies in seconds. The action sequences are all engaging, and they serve as a highpoint of the film. Another thing it gets right that actually surprised me is its sense of humor. It doesn’t have many jokes, but each has perfect timing and delivery. It adds just enough levity to keep the film from feeling dreary while still feeling natural.