Review: The Accountant
A mashup of confused storylines, random killings, and high level arithmeticThe genre-busting film The Accountant (2016) stretches several rules of cinema in producing what is a cocktail of strained storylines. Like mixing an Asperger’s Syndrome evil super-hero with the mathematical genius of The Man Who Knew Infinity (2016). Or the global manhunt for a nerdish Clark Kent-looking forensic accountant who sells his talents to the underworld, owns a Pollock, a Renoir, his own vault of gold bullion and has laser-precision with a rifle. This film has something for everyone.
The accountant is Christian Wolf (Ben Affleck) whose extraordinary talents are in hot demand by global cartels and other shady movers of big money. As a high-functioning Asperger’s, he slices throats with as much emotion as slicing through numbers in the hunt for criminals who steal from criminals. The US Treasury knows he works on the dark side and they want to track him down. The agent assigned to uncover Christian is blackmailed into reporting directly to its retiring boss in a twist that show both hunters and prey as corrupt. That everyone is morally tarnished in this film is no surprise and if Christian’s neurological condition is meant to be redemptive it is not.
Christian cannot feel emotion like ordinary people and his face has only two settings: eyes open and eyes shut. When he meets analyst Danna (Anna Kendrick), who goes for the silent type, he can only stare back in confusion and without eye-contact. A black-and-white thinker, he kills people with clinical disinterest and bonds with nobody just as audiences are unlikely to bond with him. Emotional disconnect reigns in this film both for its star and support cast who have to work with a muddled script that hopes we will watch the action and never mind the reasoning.
Despite his other acting accomplishments, Affleck in this film performs like an expressionless marionette. It is action-packed if you enjoy serial killings in an atmosphere of espionage thriller and the lack of moral compass inside the story is completely understandable. But the decision to use a neurological disorder as a point of narrative interest is questionable. It produces a stereotyped zombie-like persona and any pretence of sensitivity towards the untapped potential of people with Asperger’s dissolves when played out to the kind of extremities depicted here. It is still an interesting attempt at originality despite having a storyline that is confusing, unsatisfying, and gives accountants a bad name.