ReelBob: ‘The Accountant’

By Bob Bloom

At times, the reaction to a movie from a screening audience can be telling.

In “The Accountant,” a farm couple, befriended by the title character, is taken prisoner by a pair of extremely bad dudes looking for the numbers-cruncher. As the sequence played out, the audience began laughing. But it was the kind that releases nervous energy after a buildup of tension.

Near the finale, another scene that revolved around a “big reveal” also elicited laughs, but they were the, “oh, come on, you’re kidding,” type of reaction.

In a microcosm, those examples go a long way to define “The Accountant.”

This thriller, which features a big-name cast, headed by Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, Jon Bernthal, J.K. Simmons, Cynthia Addai-Robinson and John Lithgow, is so preposterous and unnecessarily convoluted that it has you scratching your head and pulling your hair — if you have any — in frustration and disbelief.

Affleck plays Christian Wolff, who has high-functioning autism and is a savant with numbers.

Wolff has specific routines he follows daily — plus medication — to control his autism. His one major dysfunctional problem is that once he begins a task, he must see it through to its completion.

Wolff works out of a nondescript office in a strip mall where he helps people, such as the farm couple he befriends, devise business deductions for their tax returns.

His side job, however, is cooking the books and hiding money for drug cartels and other criminal organizations.

Wolff also has a moral code — and pity anyone who breaks it because the consequences can be lethal. Wolff, it seems, also is an expert shot and a master at martial arts.

He is hired by a robotics company to check out some discrepancies in its books. Before he can complete the job, a top official in the organization — who also happens to be the best friend of its founder — dies in a bizarre manner.

Wolff is paid, but he simply cannot walk away from the job because of his compulsion to finish.

This leads to a cat-and-mouse game that includes hired killers, a low-level accountant in the firm, played by Kendrick, a veteran Treasury agent, played by Simmons, and an agent he recruits, played by Addai-Robinson, to uncover the identity of the accountant.

Interspersed are flashbacks to Wolff’s childhood showing how the brutal methods used by his father, an Army psychologist, to prepare Wolff to cope with the world.

Despite the cast’s solid performances, the movie at times seems to be spinning its wheels, making things more complicated than they really are — or should be.

As Wolff, Affleck maintains a stony countenance throughout. He doesn’t have much dialogue. His portrayal seems to be a marriage of “Rain Man” and Batman.

Simmons is wasted, spending most of his screen time offering exposition, as if the plotline is so complicated that he needs to explain it to us.

“The Accountant” presents an interesting premise, but director Gavin O’Connor, working from a script by Bill Dubuque, doesn’t seem to grasp where to go with it.

The movie meanders and throws so much at the audience that your brain nearly reaches critical mass.

I’m sure Dubuque and O’Connor wanted to make some statement about autism or people who are a bit “different,” but that also is buried in all the hurly-burly and drawn-out side steps that comprise the bulk of the movie.

Basically, “The Accountant” is a film that likes to hear itself talk. The problem is, it’s not really saying anything worth hearing.

Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.

THE ACCOUNTANT
2 stars out of 4
(R), graphic violence, language

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