Cinema Dispatch: The Accountant

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The Accountant and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Gavin O’Connor

Who is the Accountant?  More importantly, why should I care?  On the list of movies that I was looking forward to this year, this certainly isn’t one of them; not because the trailers looked BAD but because we’ve already got enough spy movies out there and we’re getting a Jack Reacher sequel next week that’s probably gonna be the best we can hope for this year.  Still, there could be something here if Ben Affleck signed on for it, and I guess it’s POSSIBLE the premise of someone with high functioning Autism being a super solider could be done gracefully, though I kind of doubt it.  Is this a fun and engaging action film to add to Ben Affleck’s increasing impressive résumé, or is he just desperate for something to get people to forget Batman v Superman, and he took the first crappy project that landed on his desk?  Let’s find out!!

The movie is all about Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) who is the enigmatic ACCOUNTANT!  Who is THE ACCOUNTANT!?  Well according to Treasury Agent Raymond King (JK Simmons) who will serve as our exposition-bot for this movie, he cooks the books for the most dangerous men on the planet and he needs to be stopped!  What Agent King doesn’t know though is that he’s ALSO Batman with a much more lax murder policy and can certainly hold his own if he ever gets betrayed by one of his shady business partners.  That doesn’t happen in the movie though.  Instead, he’s hired as an accountant instead of THE ACCOUNTANT by Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow) who has NO IDEA who he just hired, and has him look over his company’s book since a low level employee Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) found some irregularities.  These irregularities by the way are enough for the person who CAUSED the irregularities (i.e. stole a few bucks) to start sending out murder squads against everyone because of reasons.  Okay… well I guess THE ACCOUNTANT now has to fend off the bad guy’s henchmen (which include Jon Bernthal) and save Dana from being murdered… for looking at finical statements.  Whatever.  So just who is stealing money from the company and feels the need to send The Punisher to kill everyone who has ever looked at the company’s finances?  Will THE ACCOUNTANT go out on too far a limb to save this woman he just met a few days ago and give Agent King the lead he needs to find him?  Can someone please explain to me what the hell is going on here?

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The dude’s writing all this shit on the windows!  Isn’t it a bit late to try covering it up!?

This is probably one of the most tedious movies of the year as I can’t think of a single thing it does that would qualify as ABOVE COMPETENT, and yet it has this sense of self-importance that completely smothers any fun that could be had while also highlighting how laughable it’s premise is.  Look, I couldn’t tell you if this is an accurate portrayal of Autism, but I get what they’re going for; whether or not Ben Affleck’s affliction as it is portrayed is representative of something in the real world.  The closest point of comparison that I can reach for is probably Dexter (the killer one; not the boy genius one) in that we’re following someone trying to blend in with the rest of humanity while being acutely aware of how different they are from everyone else.  Well… that and the fact that both of them have secret lives that lead to a lot of murder, but that’s honestly not nearly as important as getting that dichotomy between how they present themselves to the world and how much of a mask it is for the benefit of everyone around them.  This movie however just doesn’t do enough to get you invested in Ben Affleck’s character; either when he’s someone struggling to blend into the real world or when he’s playing Super Spy for pretty much no reason.  Honestly, a spy angle hasn’t felt THIS shoehorned into a story since the sequel to Cars, and everything surrounding that is completely ridiculous and downright laughable which I doubt is what they were going for.  Maybe the intentions here were good enough, but this is just another slick and half-baked spy thriller that JUST SO HAPPENS to have one of Hollywood’s biggest stars portraying a condition that he clearly does not have.

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Any chance we can get him to play James Rolfe in the AVGN biopic?

Right off the bat, it’s really hard to get invested in the world they’re setting up in that it feels like we’re coming into this well after our main character has already gone through his hero’s journey and we’re plopped in the middle of a side story that’s of little note in the rest of the guy’s illustrious career.  I may be wrong here (the movie is kind of a mess), but as far as I can tell there is literally NOTHING that connects Ben Affleck’s Super Spy double life to the bad guys in this movie and it JUST SO HAPPENED to hire the wrong motherfucker to look at their OBVIOUSLY cooked books.  His past as a money launderer for the most dangerous people in the world which the trailers remind you of OVER and OVER again?  Yeah, that has NOTHING to do with what is happening in this movie and is simply used for exposition purposes so that you can know how BAD ASS he is.  That’s not to say that a setup like this where our hero comes into the plot as an outsider can’t work (*cough* Shoot ‘Em Up *cough*), but the movie doesn’t commit to this conceit as it feels the need to make so much about Ben Affleck’s character in every OTHER respect that it’s strange how little he actually has to do with the story.  That’s not even getting into the fact that the plot with John Lithgow’s robotic prosthetic company wouldn’t pass muster in a straight to DVD spy thriller which has more clichés and telegraphed moments than you can shake a stick at (or have a robot arm shake a stick at), which makes it that much hard to invest in anything that’s going on around Ben Affleck.  It’s just so perfunctory despite how seriously the film takes everything which makes it that much harder for us to take it seriously as well.

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“This is not the craft services table god damn it!  WE’RE ROLLING RIGHT NOW!!”

So if the plot isn’t any fun, what about the character?  I mean, they’re mortgaging the success of this movie based on selling him as the next Jason Bourne or Jack Reacher, so does he carry this mediocre plot to the finish line?  Nope.  Not even close.  I just didn’t find him all that interesting of a character, either through his personality and charisma on screen or through the role he plays and the actions the plot has him take.  It’s one cliché after another; what with the strict code of dubious ethics he lives by, the rules he follows about keeping a low profile so he doesn’t get caught, the bad guys underestimating him, the fact that nothing in this movie seems like the slightest challenge for him to overcome, and on, and on.  It’s all stuff we’ve seen a million times before which only makes things worse when paired up with the story that is equally uninspired.

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Our hero has to protect a woman who stumbled onto the truth and ends up breaking a lot of the rules that have kept him safe all this time but has closed him off from humanity to do so!?  BRILLIANT!!

His backstory honestly isn’t that much better as we get flashbacks constantly throughout the film (not to the interesting stuff where he’s a super bad ass but to his childhood), and it feels like they’re leaning a bit too hard on the Autism angle here as it becomes the focal point of EVERY flashback; I guess so you don’t forget that that is the selling point of the movie.  I will give Ben Affleck credit for his performance as this character, and while I’m hardly the person to ask if this is an offensive portrayal or if casting someone without Autism into this role is insensitive (I’m sure smarter people than me can tell you one way or the other), I was at least interested in watching him go through his day to day life; not only as someone with a high functioning form of Autism, but as a guy who keeps secrets and seems disinterested in forming connections with people.  When he’s working as an accountant, especially one scene towards the middle where he goes through years of invoices and financial statements in one sitting, the movie comes alive and feels like it’s actually about a character, but then the action stuff and weak sauce espionage tropes keeps rearing its ugly head which brings everything to a screeching halt, to the point that I’m pretty sure the movie completely drops a subplot about him having a mental breakdown just so he can do a couple more action scenes.

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And yet they somehow found a way to put THIS in the movie and not fire it ONCE.

There are parts of this that work, and even a few parts that don’t but are kind of enjoyable because of that.  The action is top notch whenever they focus on it, and Ben Affleck is still in Batman shape so he handles the scenes well.  There are points where they dip into CLOSE UPS!  QUICK CUTS!  SHAKY CAM! bullshit (and there’s one scene that is REALLY egregious with this) but other than that, the action is definitely the highlight here despite it getting in the way of what could have been an interesting character piece.  The acting is sold from most of our key players like Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick, and while I though their roles were terribly written, JK Simmons and John Lithgow manage to shine despite the awful material they were given.  I’d also throw Jon Bernthal in that category, but he ends up falling more into the SO BAD ITS GOOD elements that manage to work due to their ridiculousness, so we might as well get into that.  Without spoiling too much, his character never makes any god damn sense in the movie as the main enforcer for the bad guy (whose identity is kept secret until the end).  I don’t know why THE BAD GUY needs this guy to do all these awful things and introduce so much violence into a scenario that frankly did not call for it (I’m pretty sure the worst thing that could happen to THE BAD GUY is an audit from the IRS), but he’s good whenever he’s on screen.  He’s also part of the big TWIST at the end of the movie which is… something alright.  I won’t spoil it, but that twist, along with some of the flashbacks which looked like scenes from Batman Begins, are absolutely ludicrous and clashes with the ultra-serious tone they are going for.  What, was I NOT supposed to laugh my ass off when that ridiculous twist came or when one of the flashbacks had him getting the shit kicked out of him by a Kung-Fu master?  How about the fact the Treasury Department is trying to find out the secret identity of The Accountant and there’s this big revelation when they find out his known aliases are based on famous mathematicians?  Hell, there’s actually ANOTHER twist at the end regarding the identity of one The Accountant’s confidant, and the fact that they saved the identity of this character as a reveal for the audience skirts RIGHT UP to the point of being offensive and seemingly goes against the message this movie is trying to have.  For a movie THIS boring and self-important, there’s a whole lot of silliness thrown in at completely random points which ends up at being a decent distraction from the uninteresting plot.

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The movie just has no ambition here.  Everything that you’d see in any other spy thriller is done with straight faced sincerity and zero creativity, while the idea of having a big studio release film about an Autistic action hero doesn’t have any bite or depth to it.  It’s so calculated in everything that it does that there’s simply no room for fun, excitement, or even intentional humor.  From a technical standpoint, I guess it’s not incompetent, but the writing is so lazy that there is just no reason to see this movie, in theaters or when it gets a home release.  There are plenty of better action films, and I can even name one that has an Autistic main character.  You ever see Chocolate?  Yeah, go watch that instead.  It’s WAY more fun and satisfying than sitting through this mess.

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If you like this review and plan on buying the movie, then use the Amazon link below!  I’ll get a percentage of the order it helps keep things going for me here at The Reviewers Unite!  In fact, you don’t even need to buy the item listed!  Just use the link, shop normally, and when you check out it will still give us that sweet, sweet, percentage!  You can even bookmark the link and use it every time you shop!  HOW AWESOME IS THAT!?

The Accountant (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Ultraviolet)

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