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The Accountant (2016)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

THE ACCOUNTANT (2016)

Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, Jon Bernthal, J.K. Simmons, Cynthia Addai-Robinson

Written By: Bill Dubuque

Directed By: Gavin O'Connor

The Shot

The Accountant is one of those movies that stands out from the crowd.  Call it a crime thriller if you have to; call it entertaining because it is.  This flick is just too interesting for its flaws to matter, and well worth the look.


The Highball

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CILANTRO LIME GOUDA.

Well that’s interesting.


Pairs Well With...

SPARKLING SHIRAZ.

Well that was unexpected.  But very, very good.

“Do you like puzzles?”


I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I walked into the theatre to see The Accountant on opening night.

I definitely wasn’t expecting a comic book character origin story… but whether or not that was the writer’s intention (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t, actually; “unique crime thriller” was probably the target), that’s exactly how The Accountant plays out, and viewed through that lens (which, to be clear, the film never, ever suggests, even though our hero collects comic books), it’s outstanding.

The film follows “Christian Wolff” (Ben Affleck), the name currently being used by a mathematical savant (who is clearly on one of the higher-functioning points on the autism spectrum) who has over time utilized his talents to perform internal audits on the accounts of major criminal overlords who suspect their underlings of cheating them.  He also has more flagrantly lethal skills that he has been known to employ when people violate his personal moral code… sometimes involving anti-aircraft rounds delivered at high velocity from the barrel of a sniper rifle.

Even before we start queuing up the flashbacks of the perhaps-well-meaning-but-still-abusive father raising his son to be a fighting machine while trying to squeeze past the mental and social challenges of his autism, it’s almost impossible not to imagine Wolff as a comic book character, and as the movie rolls on, its story plays out like a six-issue introduction story.  Our unique character is presented.  He’s given a moniker (“The Accountant”).  After working for criminals for so long, he decides to take a breather and take a “legit” assignment from his mysterious “only a voice” contact on the other side of a computer/phone.  Inevitably, of course, the “legit” assignment reveals something not only criminal, but also a tie to his past, all while a government agent has been ostensibly tasked with finding out his secret identity and…

See what I mean?  Comic book.

And this is why I don’t care that the story of The Accountant turns back on itself in utterly improbable fashion, or that the entire “ case” that our hero is working on is, in the end, all-but-pointless and tossed aside more easily than a used Kleenex. This is why I don’t care about how ridiculous the whole setup with the government agency storyline turns out to be.  Taken in the context through which I have come to view this story, it just works.

It also works because the people in front of and behind the camera make it work.  Ben Affleck walks a fine line as the title character, but successful manages to neither over nor underplay his character’s challenges and – most importantly – to never turn them into caricature.  Meanwhile, Anna Kendrick is wonderful as the person we don’t expect to see in either a crime thriller or a comic book film – the normal human being who gets to stay a normal human being – forcing actual life and personality into a role that could just as easily have been treated as the plot device it was designed to be and nothing more.  And the byplay between Jon Bernthal and Ben Affleck, both when it’s just theoretical and when it inevitably happens that they’re brought together… oh yes, this is great stuff.

Directors tend to have something to do with such things, as well, so props must also go out to Gavin O’Connor for a job well done not only with the cast but also with bringing just the right atmosphere to take Bill Dubuque’s already interesting screenplay to the next level.  Even when there’s no “action” happening per se, The Accountant is always engrossing, and that is a function of O’Connor finding ways to turn even the unspoken thoughts of the characters on the screen into cinematic equivalents of motion.

When the credits rolled, I wanted more, be it the set of issues (to continue with my personal theme describing The Accountant as a comic book) describing what happens next, or one outlining an earlier adventure involving one of his more overtly dangerous clients.  It is oddly ironic to think that in this decade of sequels and follow-ups, The Accountant seems unlikely to get one…

…though I suppose that one can never say never, right?

If nothing else, I’d settle for a real comic book series.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, December, 2016

This review was written in my favorite coffee shop on Earth, Mill Valley, California.


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