Rainman meets John Wick in this complex and original drama about a high-functioning autistic maths savant who offers services above and beyond the usual cooking of the books. Crime thriller starring Ben Affleck, JK Simmons and Anna Kendrick.
For years Ben Affleck has suffered from never quite being taken seriously enough in Hollywood while best buddy from school, Matt Damon, has carved out an envious career as one of the most bankable – and likeable – stars on the red carpet.
All that started to change in 2012 when Argo, which he both directed and starred in, picked up the best picture Oscar. Since then, there’s been a little more respect and a lot more kudos coming his way, though whether he can make a decent leather-clad fist of the upcoming Batman movie is another story ..
Christian Wolff is an accountant with a difference.
At first glance, he appears to be a successful, small town book-keeper with modest premises just outside Chicago. He runs an unremarkable business in an unremarkable part of Illinois and has an unremarkable client list consisting of unremarkable local firms.
However, being blessed with a most remarkable numerical ability, Wolff also runs a neat sideline in money laundering for drug cartels, dictators, mafia bosses and the like, which is why he’s being pursued by hound-dog Treasury agent, Raymond King (Simmons). King, though quite the maths whizz himself, hasn’t quite put two and two together yet and doesn’t even have a name for his target, just a nickname ..
The Accountant is a quirky and unusual movie in that all the pre-release marketing pointed towards a run-of-the-mill thriller about a mysterious genius who “uncooks the books” of some of the most dangerous people on the planet. While that does remain true, there’s a whole lot more to the tale than meets the eye.
For starters, his personal travails are revealed minimally at first in flashback, meaning there’s a rather back-to-front element to the plotline. Normally I don’t particularly enjoy films shot in this way as I tend to feel it’s all just a gimmick as an unoriginal director tries to go all Tarantino on us, but with The Accountant it’s done for a reason.
The dramatic effect is that there are one or two big reveals towards the end which will – hopefully – astonish you if you’ve been paying close attention. I get the impression this is one of those films – a bit like The Shawshank Redemption – that will not only reward repeated viewings, allowing you to pick up more clues the more times you see it, but also that will grow via word-of-mouth.
As you can probably tell by now, I very much liked this picture.
The cast is superb : Affleck for once being allowed to under-act as it’s part of the deal with this somewhat anti-social anti-hero – though his detractors would say he’s been doing that for years – JK Simmons again flexing his hard-man muscles and Anna Kendrick proving she’s not just a comedic talent. There’s also a strong supporting ensemble including everyone’s favourite nutty uncle, Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development, Larry Sanders and The Hangover), everyone’s favourite unhinged matriarch, Jean Smart (Fargo, 24 and Frasier) and everyone’s favourite mad scientist, John Lithgow (3rd Rock From The Sun) among others.
There’s some lighter moments too, both in the flashbacks and the present, particularly when the story focuses on social interaction, or the lack of it ..
The script is tight, realistic, funny and dramatic all at the same time, while the plot itself is nicely paced and pitched at an intelligent audience. If you just want action, take a look at Affleck’s back catalogue from pre-2010. If you enjoyed the more cerebral dramatics of, say, Spotlight then this should be right up your street.
Having said that, there are still strong hints of the stylised violence of renowned Hong Kong director, John Woo, most recently revisited in the seriously under-rated Keanu Reeves’ picture, John Wick.
When The Accountant puts down his calculator long enough to make his point a different way, he usually does so with panache and controlled aggression : precisely what made Wick such an interesting film. Both roles, while at times temporarily sociopathic, make for largely sympathetic character studies as well, leaving the audience in the dark as they wrestle with trying to decide who to root for. Both movies paint bleak portraits of broken individuals in broad and deliberate strokes of grey .. but then (Hollywood) life itself hasn’t been black and white since the 1950s.
As the plot unfolds, the levels on which The Accountant operates begin to be revealed.
The treasury agents investigating his dealings can’t quite piece all the elements together and though they inch ever closer to their prey, Wolff always remains one step ahead of the authorities. The question is, can he do the same with one of his clients ?
… and that’s about where we have to leave it in terms of the story.
The Accountant is an excellent thriller and a great winter movie which will leave you asking questions days after seeing it .. which you need to do, now.