Film Review: The Accountant

by Lachlan Anderson

Rated MA15+. Starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons. Directed by Gavin O’Connor.

Do you like puzzles? Gavin O’ Connor’s new thriller The Accountant baits us with this question, but does it supply us with a puzzle worth solving? In this case the puzzle is a man, an accountant.

Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, a maths genius and accountant, who earns a living looking over the books of some of the world’s most dangerous criminals. Christian was diagnosed with autism at a young age and raised by his father, a military colonel with a heavy-handed approach to fatherhood. When Christian is called in to look over the books of a robotics company and people start dying he, and a young accountant called Dana (Kendrick), are targeted and go on the run. What Dana doesn’t know is that Christian is essentially a killing machine due to his military upbringing. Meanwhile hot on his heels are Treasury department agents King and Medina who hope to uncover and arrest Wolff before King’s retirement.

If you’re looking for a film about maths, commerce or the best way to maximise your tax refund next year this probably won’t be a good fit. Despite its name there isn’t a huge amount of math in The Accountant and the numbers that are present aren’t a huge focus of the film. Front and centre here is Affleck’s Wolff: a man longing for connection but can’t. A genius savant with the kind of action star skills of a James Bond type. He’s an interesting character and Affleck does a pretty good job of navigating his social isolation. The film itself though has somewhat of an identity crisis. It’s partly a Bourne film, Taken and A Beautiful Mind but none of those elements manage to piece together easily. In addition to the actual accounting the side plot of King and Medina feels like a very different film, and has little impact on the outcome. Anna Kendrick seems an odd choice here as well. She can’t help but play funny, and at times that’s enjoyable to watch her in comparison to Affleck’s awkward genius, but not always.

That said though there is a good amount to enjoy. Despite its weak links The Accountant is still a good bit of fun. There are some good laugh out loud moments and O’ Connor generally plays them off very well.  The action isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, but those sequences are done well and manage to lift us out of some of the boggier moments.

What is really interesting about the film is the portrayal of Wolff’s childhood. We see the strain his family is under due to Christian’s particular behavioural traits. When his mother walks out, his father is left to forge his sons into strong, cold men who can survive the world. We see them being forced to withstand beatings from martial arts experts and even being egged into fighting a group of bullies. The accountant asks a lot about fathers and what makes them good. It is never clear how Wolff sees his father. Abuser or protector? That tension is often held by us when looking to God. At the hardest times in life we can feel we are being tested, or that God is uncaring to our plight. Through the example of Jesus we know that isn’t true. It is true that we will be tested, but not without help from God’s Spirit to help us make it through. And certainly God does not abuse us to make us strong. We are strong in him already through Jesus. If you’re looking at Wolff’s life and questioning how a father should raise his sons, look to God for a better view.

The Verdict: An enjoyable enough action film that tries hard to be much more than it is and falls apart. Affleck is enjoyable as The Accountant and brings a warmth and humour to the character but a very strong cast including Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow largely go to waste. 2.5/5

The Accountant is now screening in cinemas worldwide.

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