Take a lifeless performance by Ben Affleck. Add an unimaginative script and confusing direction by Gavin O’Connor. The result for “The Accountant” is a movie where the math just doesn’t work.
The film about an accountant who has been diagnosed as having a high-functioning form of autism misses so badly that what is supposed to be an action film ends up being more comic than thrilling. And there are so many people to blame.
It starts with Affleck. It appeared he had hit rock bottom with his lifeless portrayal of the Caped Crusader in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Little did we know that that was just a warm-up for the uninspired work he does in “The Accountant.”
Because of the autism, the character of Christian Wolff is supposed to be emotionless, living a life of restriction and fanatical order. Where Affleck makes his mistake is that this kind of behavior can’t be portrayed simply by not smiling. Affleck’s performance comes across more like a man who is bored.
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Affleck also never sells the steely-eyed killer part of the character. An actor like Clint Eastwood or Jason Statham can make you believe with a single look that they would not think twice about killing someone. Affleck’s approach suggests a man who would rather be anywhere else but in this movie.
It’s not just Affleck’s lackluster performance that keeps “The Accountant” from adding up to a good movie. Bill Dubuque’s script is loaded with moments that should be intensely dramatic but play out as comic. This is wrapped around what are supposed to be big plot surprises that are actually so mundane and obvious that the surprises are dead long before the reveal.
Dubuque has no problem throwing out logic to keep his story moving forward. In one scene, Affleck’s character kills a pair of thugs in front of a couple who have turned to him for income tax advice. Any involvement by the police is glossed over.
At the same time that the accountant is adding to his death count, a Treasury agent, Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), has been assigned to track him down. The chase might have been interesting, but the two never even end up in the same room together.
Her story, like the killing in front of witnesses, is another example of how the law is merely a suggestion in this film just to keep the wobbly plot going forward.
The chatterbox character of fellow accountant Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) is intended to be a verbal balance to the limited dialogue by Affleck’s character. That would have been OK if she had had anything interesting to say. Instead, she has to make the audience believe that while she’s a very competent accountant, her heart is more tuned to a love of fine art, which sets up another not-so-surprising surprise element.
The film has a few good action scenes, but O’Connor doesn’t get the full impact out of them since they are either ended quickly with the accountant’s phenomenal skill at shooting bad guys in the head or they are played out in the dark.
One saving grace is Jon Bernthal, a hired gun who provides a deadly form of home security. Bernthal knows how to play characters on the verge of insanity, as he does here. It’s how his character works into the story that is forced.
From Affleck’s sleepwalking version of acting to the amateurish script, “The Accountant” is only a fraction of a decent action movie.