Accountant, The

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 10/14/16 08:37:14

"Insert "Just Doesn't Add Up" Quip Here"
3 stars (Just Average)

Remember that scene in “Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back” in which we get a glimpse of the production of “Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season,” an alleged sequel to the 1997 sleeper hit that saw Matt Damon and Ben Affleck reprising their respective roles of an emotionally tortured math genius and his loyal best friend while adding shotgun blasts aimed at their enemies into the mix? For most of us, that bit was nothing more than a throwaway gag in a movie that consisted almost entirely of throwaway gags but for screenwriter Bill Dubuque, the author of the deathless bit of cinema known as “The Judge,” watching it must have been like the moment when Francois Truffaut saw “Citizen Kane” for the first time for he has taken the facetious mixture of mathematics and mayhem and expanded it into the screenplay for “The Accountant,” which not only offers up the spectacle of a character who is both a brilliant mathematician and a steely-eyed assassin when need be but which has filled the lead role with none other than Affleck himself. The result is a film so utterly bizarre throughout that for a good portion of the running time, you may be convinced that it is actually an utterly deadpan goof of dopey high-concept acton extravaganzas. The end result is barking mad—you don’t want to review it as much as you want to give it a prescription of some sort—and cannot be defended on any legitimate critical grounds but at the same time, I can’t say that I was ever bored while I was watching it, which is more than I can say about most movies these days.

In an opening 1989 flashback, a young boy with what appears to be a form of Aspberger’s Syndrome is visiting a school that looks as such kids not as afflicted but as those with special needs and abilities that need to be nurtured—indeed, we see the boy not only put together an entire jigsaw puzzle in a matter of minutes, he does it with the picture side facing the ground. It seems like an ideal situation but his military man father (), convinced that the world will only see him as some kind of freak, elects instead to force him to undergo harsh and relentless physical training, presumably so that his son can one day straight up murder anyone with the temerity to make a “Rainman” reference in his presence. Years later, during a stint in jail, he is put in a cell with a mob accountant (Jeffrey Tambor), who proceeds to give him a crash course in fancy accounting tricks designed to help people keep and hide their illegally gotten gains—no, a suggestion that there is always money in the banana stand does not come up along the way. After being released, our hero becomes the favorite accountant of criminals around the world for his ability to uncool the books and keep quiet about it in exchange for a hefty fee. His modus operandi is to move around from place to place and changing identities along the way, open up a small office that most might overlook and even offer his non-criminal clients a tip or two on how to game the system for their benefit.

Now working out of Plainfield, IL under the name of Christian Wolff, he is hired to look at the books of a cutting-edge and incredibly altruistic company that is about to go public after junior accountant Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) happens to notice a couple of monetary discrepancies. Sure enough, after going through 30 years of documents in one night, Christian finds evidence that something is amiss but before he can finish his task, he is sent away and the CFO who seems to have been taking money from the firm appears to have committed suicide. That is bad enough but it then transpires that someone has hired a slick assassin (Jon Bernthal) with an apparent in with the financial community, to eliminate both Dana and Christian. However, what they didn’t count on was Christian’s long-ingrained survival skills that allow him to fight back the attackers with ruthless and deadly efficiency, rescue Dana and then mount a one-man offensive against dozens of highly trained assassins in order to get to the man behind everything. Oh yeah, while all this is going on, a Treasury agent on the cusp of retirement (J.K. Simmons” brings in a new recruit (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to help him investigate who this so-called accountant is and how he can deal with so many dangerous people without having wound up in a hole in the ground himself.

As nutty as all of this may sound (and I haven’t even mentioned the ways in which a certain famous comic book and a paining of dogs playing poker fit into the narrative), it is nothing compared to how it unfolds on the screen. The idea of presenting viewers with a sort of Rainman with a body count might have sounded intriguing at first (provided that one is able to overlook the fact that it basically exploits the fear that those with Asperger’s are inherently capable of savage violence at the drop of a hat) but instead of figuring out one straightforward narrative that might have dealt with it, Dubuque has instead created a convoluted structure in which multiple story threads have been deployed—each one sillier than the last—that only rarely seem to fit together in any plausible manner and which don’t even make much sense when taken completely on their own. The plot developments somehow manage to come across as both batshit crazy and eminently predictable until the point comes when Dubuque apparently decided that even he had had enough and just has everyone shooting at each other for most of the last half of the story. Then again, even if the screenplay had somehow managed to create a completely airtight and plausible story alone these lines, it wouldn’t have mattered much because of the singularly weird casting in regard to the all-important central role—look, I actually think that Ben Affleck is a better actor than he is usually given credit for but he has got to be just about the least likely actor around to convincingly essay the role of a highly cerebral and emotionally reticent math genius with highly honed homicidal tendencies, at least until Weird Al Yankovic finally gets around to making “UHF 2.”

And yet, despite all those problems and many more that I have not bothered to mention here, I have to admit that it still managed to more or less keep my interest throughout and for reasons other than incredulously wondering just how crazy it was going to get. Presumably having realized just how nutty the entire enterprise was, director Gavin O’Connor (who has made better films in the past, such as the wonderful sports melodrama “Miracle”) apparently just decided to forge ahead and embrace the ridiculousness by taking it seriously instead of winking to the audience as others might have—then again, considering that the job of keeping all the myriad plot points up in the air must have made him feel like the cinematic equivalent of the people who used to spin a bunch of plates on sticks on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” he may have simply been too exhausted to do so. As for the actors, they all appear to have taken more or less the same approach and tackle their parts with workmanlike efficiency that gets the job done, even it the results are unlikely to appear on very many Lifetime Achievement Award clip reels in the future.

Does that mean that I would I would recommend that you spend your precious time and money on seeing “The Accountant”? Unless you have spent the last 18 years waiting for someone to finally do a thematic sequel to the instantly forgettable Bruce Willis thriller “Mercury Rising” (and the parallels are striking if you are ever bored enough to consider them at length), the answer is probably not because as absurd as it all is, I am not sure that the silliness is able to compensate for the messy storytelling and askew message it seems to be sending about autism. That said, those with a pronounced taste for the ridiculous may find themselves getting an unexpected kick out of it and on the way home, they may even be inspired to cook up their own accountant-themed tough guy lines (“I see you brought your 1040s—let me show you my 10 45s!” and “Look out—they have abaci!” being among my personal favorites) on the way home, an enterprise that may prove to be more entertaining and certainly better-written than the film that inspired it.

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