Dir.: Gavin O’Connor
Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jon Bernthal, John Lithgow, Jean Smart, Andy Umberger, Alison Wright
128min | Thriller | USA
Writer Bill Dubuque (The Judge) creates a sprawling, Shakespearean universe, where nearly all the protagonist are ridden with guilt and waiting for their hidden pasts to catch up with them. Pride and Glory Director Gavin O’Connor gives this complex narrative a rather mediocre treatment, symbolised by Ben Affleck’s anaemic performance in the title role.
Told in intricate flashbacks, The Accountant is the story of two brothers, Christian (Affleck) and Braxton (Bernthal) Wolff who are the victims of their father’s strict military upbringing and he submits them from an early age to brutal martial training exercises. To make matters worse, Christian is autistic and would have been better off in the hands of the director of the Harbour Neuroscience Institute in New Hampshire, where he develops a rare relationship with Justine, the equally afflicted daughter of the Institute’s head. The boys’ mother leaves the family home arguments with her husband and it is no surprise that we find the two boys as adults on the wrong side of the law. Christian is leading a double life: as a brilliant accountant for his company he possesses fabulous wealth (and an original Pollock), but his sideline as a killer helps him to purge a guilty past: after the funeral of his re-married mother, Christian’s father took a bullet meant for his son.
Christian is also very much involved in the revenge killings of a Mafia family, who are responsible for murdering his accountant friend and role model. Christian is then called in by the owner of Living Robotics, Lamar Blackburn (Lithgow), a company producing artificial limbs, where he comes into contact with accountant Dana (Kendrick) who has discovered a huge fraud in the company accounts.
Christian saves Dana’s life, after killers associated with “the Assassin”, Braxton’s nome-de-guerre, tried to assassinate her. To make matters even more complicated, treasury agent Ray King (Simmons) has found out, that one of his staff, Marybeth Medina (Addai-Robinson) is actually a criminal. King (who also has a dirty secret) uses blackmail to make her take risks in finding out Christian’s true identity. Via a shootout in the villain’s villa, everything falls into place, and Dana, having fallen for Christian, ends up alone – but with the Pollock she admired so much.
Dubuque’s script is full of interesting information about mathematics, children’s rhymes (Solomund Grundy, by which Braxton identifies his brother during the shootout), and the different ways the protagonists repress their guilt. DoP Seamus McGarvey creates a dark universe, fitting for the characters. Everyone lives under a different shadow of diffused light – apart from Dana, the woman who originally wanted to be an artist. But the long shoot-outs are tedious and unnecessary, as are most of the action scenes. Afflick’s is simply not up to his complex character: he is all bemused routine, sleepwalking through the two hours. Dana’s Kendrick on the other hand, shows her ambiguity, she is alive to the sudden challenges in her life, trying to understand her own and Christian’s contradictions. O’Connor unfortunately enforces Afflick’s rather indolent and superficial way, wasting one of the best scripts of recent times. AS
OUT ON 4 NOVEMBER 2016 NATIONWIDE