Like the thing that most fascinates Ben Affleck’s protagonist, The Accountant is a puzzle. The pieces all seem to be there – high concept genre pic, good performers, decent action direction, even the inclusion of Silat, aka the martial art from Indonesia first popularized on this side of the globe by The Raid.
Yet, frustratingly, the pieces don’t seem to fit together. Pitched as both a thriller and a comic book hero-like origin story, it’s a film perhaps more than a bit overshadowed by the cape that star Affleck has donned of late. Still, this badass actuarial agent with autism makes for a compelling thought experiment, almost as if the very idea of the film overshadows whatever was inevitably going to show up on screen.
You’ve got the likes of Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons and John Lithgow there to chew scenes, and save for the latter they do so admirably. Lithgow probably has the least to work with, unfortunately, and his take comes across as more sitcom than serious. Cynthia Addai-Robinson is added to the mix in a clumsy way as a kind of red herring, but even those narrative stumbles aren’t as obvious and telegraphed as the role played by Jon Bernthal.
Yet despite the paint-by-numbers drudgery of the procedural elements there are some flourishes of fun. Affleck manages to do the character justice, being convincingly Spartan with his emotional connection to all that’s going around. It’s a unique take on this type of character, very much falling in line with the notion that those on the Autism spectrum may well simply see the word through a different, and at times superior, lens.
The film is best when it’s relentlessly bent on destruction, and the matter-of-fact murdering keeps well within the tone set by Affleck’s character. Yet thanks to more clumsy writing it all culminates in a preposterous stand-off intercut with another jumping off point that feels far more interested in laying the groundwork for a franchise of sequels than trying to get the present elements dealt with in a satisfying way. There’s an almost gleeful insistence with many of the “reveals” that only the most oblivious would not have seen miles away, making the film feel even smaller and trite.
An interesting misfire, despite all those pieces ready to be assembled the film falls flat. The Accountant means well, but in the end it simply doesn’t add up.