Box Office Democracy: The Accountant
Movies like The Accountant used to be a dime a dozen, or at least they felt like that, a simple action movie with a low-A-list or high-B-list actor just filling time in the schedule. Now it feels like all of these movies have become franchise entries instead, a safer attempt at the same money as star power has become less important and licenses have become king. The Accountant is a by-the-books action movie with a gimmick, the main character is supposed to have Asperger syndrome, and it relies on that gimmick and the charm of the cast. It’s an exceptionally charming cast, and it’s capable of pushing a rather cliché movie through all of the rougher parts. I like The Accountant despite the things it does badly and, maybe a little bit, because of them.
I’ve seen some variation of The Accountant’s story a million times. A criminal with a heart of gold (Ben Affleck) gets in over his head with what is supposed to be a simple job. An innocent girl (Anna Kendrick) gets wrapped up in a world she has no place in and must be saved by said criminal. The twists and turns are supposed to keep you guessing as to whom the real bad guy is but it ends up being the person with the highest billing that isn’t the protagonist or the love interest (I don’t want to give it away but you can read a movie poster). A young cop (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) tries to bring the criminal to justice but struggles with the shades of grey around who the real bad guy is. I’m not mad, I like this story, but maybe this one wraps up a little too neatly as everyone in every flashback wraps around to be an important part of the present day. There’s also a kind of inexplicable moment where the back-story, previously told through flashbacks gradually handed out throughout the movie, is dumped out in a giant bit of narrated exposition at the end of the second act as if they realized they had run out of time for their previous framing devices.
It’s a little strange that the gimmick of this movie is that Ben Affleck is playing a neuroatypical character. I don’t know if this is an accurate depiction of Asperger’s or an offensive one. I am reasonably sure that most people with any form of autism are not master assassins, so it’s all kind of abstract at that point. It feels like grabbing a tiger by the tail to suggest that the way to make your special needs child function in a normal society is through an intensely abusive upbringing that turns them in to an assassin, but maybe it’s enough that all of the autistic people in the film are depicted as functioning reasonably self-sufficient adults. The Accountant might be ahead of its time now, but it feels like it’s in dire danger of seeming very regressive a decade down the line.
Then again, maybe The Accountant isn’t meant to stand up to the judgment of the ages. This is The Transporter or Kiss of the Dragon more than it’s a Die Hard; a movie to bridge the gap between bigger releases and to take advantage of the lead actor bulking up to play Batman. I had a great time watching The Accountant— the action was fun and as original as you’re going to get for a movie made at this level of effort. The plot wasn’t any great puzzle or anything, but I had a good time pulling at the threads and unraveling it in my brain. I would watch eagerly watch a sequel and sigh and roll my eyes if they stretched it in to a trilogy. Not every movie can be Citizen Kane and not every action movie can be Crank 2: High Voltage but the world needs new movies all the time, and The Accountant adds up to a solid film.