The Accountant (2016) Movie Review

Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck), once an army brat raised under the strict militaristic rule of his father, is a crackpot accountant whose Asperger’s syndrome and radical upbringing create an eccentric skill set.

Armed with a poorly-motivated narrative deadline—do the job in time or go to jail—Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) is an analyst in the Treasury Department tasked with finding a “black money” operator who has worked with numerous terrorist cells, a man who is none other than Christian Wolff.

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The narrative of The Accountant weaves in and out of chronologies, perhaps needlessly, in order to flesh out the character of Wolff. These plotlines feel needless because they are means to a specific end that is equally unnecessary.

The Accountant struggles as a drama. Characters are shallow. Plot is meandering at best, trying to be a full-circle nail-biter, instead becoming a long-winded ride whose revelations are more exasperating than intriguing. It is all too convoluted, not incoherent but simply needlessly weighed down by mystery-grade reveals. These reveals create a third act that churns far beyond its expiration date.

Stripping away these unnecessary plot points and focusing on a singular tone may have saved the film from being as messy as the final product we get is. The film has many moments of levity and humor that are effective, but this levity is compromised by the dramatic elements of the plot. The tension between these two tones makes the film feel like two very different action films meshed together.

The Accountant is a fun film, all things considered. The acting may not live up to the names the poster boasts. The cat and mouse chase plot loses the wind in its sails the first time we see a treasury agent working on a computer. But when the film stops taking itself too seriously there is pleasure to be gained from light quips and rote action sequences.

If the film had been constructed as a high-profile, self-aware action film, it may have proved more successful. If it had done away with the humor and focused on crafting a tighter story, it may have proved more successful. Blending the two, on the other hand, causes a messy, overlong action drama that doesn’t know what it wants to be.

 

The Accountant: C

 

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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)

 

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