The Accountant

 

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A project that did not deserve to attract such a good cast.

 
Accountant, The

Drowning with numbers: Ben Affleck

 

On paper this drama sounds promising. The film is directed by Gavin O’Connor whose recent work on the undervalued Jane Got a Gun impressed me, it stars Ben Affleck with Anna Kendrick as his co-star and the supporting cast is headed by J.K. Simmons, John Lithgow and Jon Bernthal. Nor does one worry about the look of the piece when the colour photography is in the hands of Seamus McGarvey. But this is a screen original and everything turns on what proves to be a decidedly unhelpful screenplay by Bill Dubusque.

The weaknesses in the writing are of various kinds and are not apparent immediately. There is a well-judged opening (a scene of violence with an unidentified central figure to intrigue us) and initially the film sets out as a thriller involving a brilliant accountant (Affleck) who applies his talents to crooked ends. His manner is cold and unappealing but his ability gives him hero status when he acts on the side of the angels. This he does when investigating suspicious book-keeping spotted by an employee (Kendrick) working for a seemingly respectable company run by Lamar Black (Lithgow).

This may sound relatively straightforward, but Dubusque adds flashbacks to various periods in the accountant’s life starting with childhood when, diagnosed with autism, his father reacted in the worst possible way to his son's condition. But every flashback contributes to developments including one of instruction in martial arts which enables the accountant on occasion to turn into an action hero. In addition, Ray King (Simmons), just ahead of retirement from the Crime Enforcement Division of the Treasury Department, is blackmailing an employee (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) into hunting down the accountant on his own behalf and there's also a hint of a love story involving Affleck and Kendrick. The latter, making use of a painting by Jackson Pollock to con us into thinking that this is a piece with intellectual weight, takes place entirely in the present, whereas Ray King’s motivation will eventually be revealed by yet another long flashback sequence.

Even if all the plot threads eventually come together, they do so in a very contrived fashion, while for much of the time until then the impression is of an over-complex tale presented in a diffuse and often tangential way. Furthermore, there’s no character with whom one really sympathises. Technically efficient and competently played, the film lacks the credibility and consistency that would make it work and the only reason for remembering The Accountant is that in the end credits we find two referring to consultants, one for mathematics and the other for autism. That surely makes it unique.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jean Smart, Seth Lee, Andy Umberger, Gary Basaraba.

 

Dir Gavin O'Connor, Pro Lynette Howell Taylor and Mark Williams, Screenplay Bill Dubusque, Ph Seamus McGarvey, Pro Des Keith P. Cunningham, Ed Richard Pearson, Music Mark Isham, Costumes Nancy Steiner.

 

Warner Brothers/Electric City Entertainment/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Zero Gravity Management-Warner Brothers.
128 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 4 November 2016. Cert. 15.