My biggest fears for The Accountant, thankfully, had never come true. Given as I tend to be rather highly critical of how films depict the autism spectrum, I was skeptical that The Accountant would have inaccurately portrayed it in a manner that it’s so Hollywood to the point it’s almost degrading (hence my great disdain of Forrest Gump) but to my own surprise, it was never a bother. Instead, the underlying problem with The Accountant is somewhere else, as it’s just a film caught up so much elsewhere to the point it forgets what creates a consistent flow. There’s potential to be found all around but never at all does the film manage to live up, and instead what The Accountant becomes is one of the most ridiculous films of the year.
The titular “accountant” is played by Ben Affleck. As a child, he was diagnosed with a high-functioning form of autism and he was raised by his father to supposedly “overcome” the challenges of being on the spectrum so that the world can accept him rather than accommodate for his needs. In his adulthood, he becomes a public accountant suspected of criminal activity, and is pursued by a treasury department agent who otherwise refers to him as nothing more than just “the accountant.” This outline is nothing out of the ordinary, but from how it manages to bring autism inside as a major part of what defines Affleck’s character, it had the risk of undermining what the syndrome actually does to the human mind. That is not the main problem – instead it lies within how it never flows properly after a specific point.
It was interesting enough to see Ben Affleck playing the role of a man who is on the autistic spectrum, and what I appreciate most about this role was the fact that this performance actually feels much more like a well-researched one compared to other disgusting treatments to which the syndrome has received on film, whether you look at films like I Am Sam or Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. It was easy for me to applaud this on The Accountant‘s part, because Ben Affleck nails down the very basics of the syndrome so perfectly well and my expectations for where the film were heading only boosted higher from there. And aside from this one performance together with some well-choreographed action sequences, everything else, unfortunately, feels so wasted.
Aside from Affleck, many of the other cast members are sidelined to the point that they never grab nearly as much interest as they should. I knew from the moment in which Anna Kendrick’s last major scene had ended that The Accountant were only going to shoot itself in the foot more, because she disappears after that up until the ending. It was a shame especially because she’s a capable actress who can do well with the right material, but she has so little to work with. If Anna Kendrick’s waste were not enough, we also have the subplot that involves J. K. Simmons as the treasury agent whom is on the run for Affleck, and it became all the more problematic because his character was merely there for exposition. He shares only one scene together with Affleck, and it is all amidst an expository monologue that reveals so little about his character, highlighting his uselessness in the film.
With how much The Accountant manages to waste from its cast, the most obvious problem is the script. No matter what it may range from, and it is utterly obvious from the moment in which the twists in its second half come in. The problem with these twists, is the fact that they are either far too obvious or they just come in without any sense of development, and even more ridiculous is how many of them there are. No hints had been given out the whole way through, or the expository sequences end up revealing far too much, and it goes to show where The Accountantis only endangering itself all the more: it just shoves in far too much out of nowhere to the point that it only makes for something more convoluted and eventually, disengaging.
Gavin O’Connor seems to know what he is aiming for when it comes to how he handles the action and what it is that forms Affleck’s character. But he gets caught up within far too much of said areas to the point that everyone else only feels like a presence that adds so little to the film overall, and things only get much worse from there onward. For all the effective material coming into play, so much useless exposition and a plethora of subplots come in and take one’s interest out of the final product. You would have thought that for something that actually had the guts to research autism for one character, something more could have come out. That is not what had been delivered, for The Accountant is only sporadically amusing and on some ends, uninteresting, and from the moments the twists came in, I was laughing right there in my seat. I’ve never imagined something set up so perfectly shooting itself in the foot with mindlessness afterwards but here we are.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Warner Bros.
Directed by Gavin O’Connor
Screenplay by Bill Dubuque
Produced by Lynette Howell Taylor, Mark Williams
Starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J. K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 128 minutes