For a film celebrating difference, Gavin O’Connor’s autistic assassin drama is disappointingly normal.
Gavin O’Connor’s The Accountant is merely the latest Warner Brothers release cursed with trailer editors more talented than its actual director. The edgy mood of the film’s teaser, and its frantic pace, are completely lacking from O’Connor’s film: a far more generic product than The Accountant‘s premise deserved. Ben Affleck is the titular accountant- Christian Wolff, a man with two interesting secrets: firstly, he has Aspergers, and secondly that he’s a part-time assassin with shooting and fighting expertise. The filmmakers’ main mistake is in thinking the latter is a more interesting twist than the former. We’ve seen hundreds of working men-turned-hitmen in thrillers such as this, but a ruthless killer with a certifiable developmental condition is significantly more unique, and compelling.
In the portions of the film where Wolff’s social difficulties and personality quirks are explored, Affleck impresses. He’s always excelled at playing casually tragic figures, one of which Wolff certainly is, and our glimpses at his daily routine (which includes exposing himself to loud noise and strobe lighting as a form of therapy) are fascinating and affecting in equal measure. Though the transitions to flashback are incredibly clumsy, Seth Lee is well-cast as the younger version of the character. Wolff as assassin is less exciting: Wolff is simply an asexual Jason Bourne, and the progression of the crime plot he’s involved with is unoriginal and unmemorable.
Due to the binary nature of Wolff’s character, the plot divides into two distinct (and distinctly messy) paths. Wolff and young accountant Dana (the reliably perky Anna Kendrick) spend some refreshingly platonic time on the run, while J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson’s characters explore some overcomplicated background that shifts affairs into first-gear noir. Meanwhile, Jon Bernthal and John Lithgow are intriguingly mysterious adversaries for Wolff (who is himself a highly untrustworthy protagonist) and Jeffrey Tambor is shamefully wasted with mere seconds of screentime.
If Gavin O’Connor’s goal was to make a film called The Accountant that would exceed audience’s expectations of how dull a film with that title should be, he’s succeeded with flying colours. This is sharp and tightly-structured, and the excellent cast work well with an undeniably weak story. The film’s greatest problem is its lack of engaging atmosphere, something that could have been easily solved with a Thomas Newman or Trent Reznor score. With stronger focus, this film might have been quite special. Instead, it’s very normal. We don’t need to define “normal”…