“The Accountant” is a crime-drama starring Ben Affleck (“Batman V. Superman”, “Argo”) and directed by Gavin O’Connor (“Warrior”, “Miracle”). The film’s intriguing story, exciting action and strong performances are greatly hampered by its jarring and fragmented narrative structure, which takes what could have been a great movie and makes it a film that is good for some, but not for everyone.
The film’s story juggles three different narratives. The first follows Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck), an antisocial genius accountant engaged in shady financial dealings. Wolf’s latest job was bookkeeping for a robotics company with questionable revenue. The second storyline explores the life of young Christian (Seth Lee), a brilliant child diagnosed with minor form autism, his parents (played by Robert C. Trveiler and Mary Kraft), and the events in his life that made him into the person we see in the Ben Affleck storyline.
The third narrative follows Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), an operative for the State Department who is assigned Christian’s case by her department head Ray King (J.K. Simmons).
The first and third narratives converge just before the climax; the second narrative –incomplete until the last scene—informs the events of the other two.
The plot jumps frequently between the three storylines; for example, a scene with adult Christian and fellow accountant Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), may end without resolution and suddenly cut to Agent Medina following a lead on Wolff’s case.
Before either scene’s plot points are followed up on, the film might then focus on younger Christian learning martial arts at the behest of his father,. The full story becomes clear by the end—with satisfying resolutions for all three subplots—but because of all the jumping around, it may take some time after the film ends to piece together exactly what happened.
Despite the bizarre narrative choices, “The Accountant”offers a lot to like.
Ben Affleck believably portrays Christian’s intelligence, social awkwardness and strange charisma. You also believe him as a man with years of physical training and combat skills. Anna Kendrick is charming as Wolf’s kind-of love interest, and they have great on-screen chemistry. J.K Simmons is excellent as always in his role, and Addai-Robinson brings a combination of strength and vulnerability to the role.
While the pacing is slow and storytelling is a bit sloppy, the film is peppered with enough entertainment to keep most fans of crime-dramas invested. For starters, when the action kicks in, it’s thrilling. The few (very R-rated) action scenes are well-shot and exciting and a great change-of pace from the many, many scenes involving people sitting or standing and talking in a room.
That’s not to say that those scenes can’t be entertaining in themselves, as the dialogue is well written, with a good mix of suspenseful drama, strong characterizations and light-hearted humor.
With all that being said, however, “The Accountant” just misses the mark of on being film that most audiences can enjoy. There are certainly bright spots in the film, but there are just not enough of them to warrant a recommendation.
The main culprit here is O’Connor, who just can’t seem to take all the great components of the film—the strong performances, the reasonably engaging story and good dialogue—and put them together into something that can hold its own in this already crowded fall movie season.