The Accountant is an action film lacking any discernable identity. Some moments we are treated to scenes out of a 90s Van Damme film and other scenes work to capture the slick James Bond aesthetic. To top it all off, screenwriter Bill Dubuque (The Judge) uses autism to help explain away the narrative. Sometimes less is more, and having all these plates in the air hinders any possible momentum. It’s a slog.
The film starts with a scene of Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) taking out seven members of the Gambino crime family. Yeah, the Gambinos. Original. We then abruptly jump back to 1989, and see a young Christian putting a puzzle together while his parents are talking to the doctor at the neuroscience center for children. Wolff is a math genius who is also dealing with a very severe case of autism that hinders his ability to function socially. His parents argue about how to handle this and it drives his mother away.
It was at this moment where, maybe, the narrative was going to be a social commentary on autism? Maybe how it shaped Wolff’s life? Wrong. Instead, we’re thrust into another scene where young Christian is being taught karate from a dude hired by his father to kick his son’s ass. So how do we go from a Gambino crime hit, to a family visiting with a doctor about autism, to a domestic disturbance, to a hamfisted scene from the cutting room floor of an 80s kick-and-punch thriller?
It’s as if The Accountant is a collection of missing pieces from other films that have been thrown into one huge box and writer Bill Dubuque was asked to stitch them together. The audience never gets a definitive answer on how this boy with autism and love for numbers ended up being a trained assassin? No one who sees this film can even definitively say why Wolff is driven to rid the world of these evil individuals.
We do find out the Department Treasury has a task force lead by Ray King (J.K Simmons), who’s driven to track down this “accountant” (for reasons we find out later in the film). He inexplicably blackmails an agency employee, Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), to help track him down. Just when you think there couldn’t possibly be any more random narrative tidbits thrown in, we’re then introduced to Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick).
Cummings happens to be an accountant at Lamar Black’s (John Lithgow) robotics firm, who may have uncovered some missing money and Wolff is hired to verify these findings – because why not. Of course, Wolff finds the money trail, but now Dana is in danger (who didn’t see this coming?), and Christian’s talent for killing bad guys comes in handy. While this is going down, we stumble into yet another new plot point that seems to hint at Lithgow’s character being at the center of all these issues. It’s tiring. He promptly does the most rational thing a man in his position would do, he hires a hitman played by Jon Bernthal to “clean-up” his mess.
The amount of just random points to this story are enough to make your head spin. Yes, there is a certain novelty in seeing Affleck kick butt on screen, but at some point, the story has to make some sense. All of these plot points could work in a good film, but a good film this is not; they don’t connect, and it’s all a meandering mess. Had the director Gavin O’Connor and Dubuque took the time to develop this narrative, we could have had an intense adult thriller. Seeing how a young autistic boy is driven to want to rid the world of such sick people could have been a compelling story.