The Accountant (2016)

2017 #73
Gavin O’Connor | 128 mins | download (HD) | 2.40:1 | USA / English | 15 / R

The Accountant

In this action-thriller from the director of the overrated Warrior, Ben Affleck stars as Chris Wolff, an autistic accountant who excels at auditing complex financial records. No, wait! I did say action-thriller, because Chris’ clients are mostly criminal organisations, and he uses the martial arts training his father instilled as a child to double up as a hitman. See, it’s exciting really.

When Chris is called to audit a robotics company (run by John Lithgow) who have found irregularities in their books (why this criminal accountant is called to work for a legit company I can’t remember, but I’m sure it was explained in the film), he unexpectedly bonds with Dana (Anna Kendrick), the company accountant who spotted the problem. After his audit unearths evidence of embezzlement, both Chris and Dana find themselves the target of bad people (led by Jon Bernthal) who want to keep the company’s secrets. Meanwhile, a couple of FBI agents (J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson) are on the trail of the mysterious criminal known primarily as “the Accountant”…

Maths!

The Accountant has lots of moving bits and pieces — I’ve not even alluded to all of them in that summary — but to call it a complicated film would be either too generous or a disservice, depending on your point of view. There’s a clarity to it all that keeps it easy to follow but suitably engaging, even as it plays out multiple storylines in a couple of time periods (there are flashbacks aplenty to Chris’ childhood training). And if you’re thinking, “finally a film that makes accounting exciting!”, I’m sorry to disappoint you but Chris’ maths skills are really just a MacGuffin to get the ball rolling. What it does deliver is a decent thriller plot, with a couple of twists to keep things lively. It’s also a pretty satisfying narrative — I’m not sure there’s ever been another movie that so thoroughly tied up everything into nice neat little bows. I suppose that’s at least kind of appropriate given the hero’s condition.

The action element is mainly reserved for the second half, when Chris has to deal with the people out to get him. This isn’t one for adrenaline junkies — it’s not a nonstop fight-fest like, say, a Bourne movie — but there’s a suitably violent climax nonetheless.

Shooting!

In some respects The Accountant shouldn’t be a good movie. It treats autism as a superpower, which is both inaccurate and turning into a cliché; but it doesn’t do it so egregiously that it feels entirely tacky. The whole side story with the FBI also feels kind of clunky, though at least eventually goes somewhere — whether that somewhere is relevant and clever, or pointless and daft for the sake of a twist, is up to your own judgement. Same goes for the other major final-act reveal.

Yet, for all that, it’s kind of fun. Not in the obvious jokey way that, say, Guardians of the Galaxy is fun, but in the way that it provides decent characters, decent thrills, decent action, and a thorough set of conclusions that put pins in everything, including things you didn’t even think needed tying up. There may be points in the middle when you come close to rolling your eyes and almost wanting to give up on it, but by the end it’s all pretty satisfying.

4 out of 5

The Accountant is available on Sky Cinema from today.

Adam (2009)

2016 #20
Max Mayer | 95 mins | TV | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 12 / PG-13

Hugh Dancy (of TV’s Hannibal) stars as the eponymous Adam, a New Yorker with Asperger syndrome who’s having to work out how to go it alone after his protective father passed way. Isolated by his condition and his struggle to cope with change, his life faces upheaval when he loses his job, but he also begins to strike up a relationship with his new neighbour, Beth (Rose Byrne). As someone once said*, the course of true love never did run smooth — especially when one of a couple has a social interaction disorder.

Inspired by writer-director Max Mayer hearing a person with Aspergers interviewed on the radio, that starting point has had the end result of Adam at times being at risk of slipping into a “this is Aspergers” documentary. Fortunately it manages to pull that back — such explanatory scenes are surely necessary for neophyte viewers’ understanding of Adam’s condition, which is naturally central to the events that follow. Dancy worked with with Mayer for a month before filming began to develop the character, and spoke with individuals affected by Aspergers to learn about their feelings, sensory issues, and interests. It clearly paid off: I imagine it must be tricky to pull off a character like that without taking it too far, but Dancy is great in the role.

As the other half of the relationship, Rose Byrne holds her own having to almost play the ‘straight man’ to Dancy’s more obvious performance. She’s a considerably better actress than some of her movie choices would have you believe, and roles like this prove that. Bonus points to the writing here for Beth not just accepting everything Adam does — that’s much more realistic than him happening across an endlessly understanding saint of a woman. But boo to the critics who didn’t buy that a privileged “daddy’s girl”-type could ever possibly fall for someone with autism — how judgemental are you?

Among the supporting cast, Peter Gallagher plays the kind of role he always seems to play: as soon as he makes passing mention of being investigated for some kind of financial crime, you know he did it (and probably more), and his daughter will find out and it’ll wipe the scales from her eyes. The only question is whether he’ll be found guilty by the court or weasel his way out of it. Talking of predictability, Mayer opts for the ‘indie’ rather than trad-rom-com ending, but that in itself is kind of predictable. Of course, when both possible outcomes are predictable (and, in a rom-com, there are only two), you can’t win.

So you can’t deny there are clichéd building blocks here, and they do hold the film back from being great, but the sweet relationship and Dancy’s performance overcome them enough to make for a likeable movie.

4 out of 5

* It was Shakespeare. It’s always Shakespeare. ^