The Accountant is exactly the sort of movie that has been in short supply of late — an old school, high concept, totally slick star vehicle with a ridiculous yet extremely entertaining plot that’s just as fun as it is far-fetched. The spec script market seems to be dead, with nearly every film based on a book or a comic or a pre-existing property or some sort of remake or reboot. And while The Accountant isn’t going to win any awards, it puts forward an extremely engaging mix of genres in an effort to do something unique with strands of familiar plotting. The Accountant is true MOVIE, and I mean that in the best sense possible; I have really missed these types of films that aren’t necessarily designed to win Oscars or sell lunch boxes, but that have been crafted to entertain in that classic fashion that we used to expect. This film feels like a late 90’s studio offering, and I really hope that it does well at the box office so that more original ideas like this can make their way through the system.
Stylishly directed by Gavin O’Connor (Warrior, Miracle, this year’s underrated western Jane Got A Gun) and densely conceived by screenwriter Bill Dubuque (The Judge), the film stars a perfectly cast Ben Affleck as an Aspergers-afflicted man with a penchant for numbers crunching and trigger pulling; by day he’s a buttoned up money manager who knows all of the tricks of the trade, and by night he’s a lethal assassin working for the highest bidder and taking out some extremely dangerous targets. It’s a melding of two different ideas, and then spiced up even further with no more than three subplots with some terrific supporting actors getting a chance to let it rip with juicy movie-star material. There’s a lot going on in The Accountant, and it takes its time telling its story; this isn’t exactly the slam-bang action flick that the trailers have sold, as it’s just as interested in its characters, especially Affleck, as it is in showcasing Silat-infused fight sequences and bloody shoot-outs.
Shot with casual style in desaturated, shadowy tones on 35 mm film by the great cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (World Trade Center, We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Avengers) and smoothly edited by Richard Pearson (United 93, Quantum of Solace), the film benefits from its low-key and rather moody musical score by the superb composter Mark Isham (O’Connor’s cop flick Pride and Glory, Wayne Kramer’s gonzo actioner Running Scared), and the sleek minimalist production design courtesy of Keith Cunningham and his art team. The high-powered fire-arms on display are rather awesome in their brute force, and I don’t remember an actioner with this many silencers in recent memory. O’Connor and Dubuque never use the Autism angle as a cheap ploy for sentimentality, and while the entire film certainly strains logic in more than once instance, the commitment from everyone in the deep cast and behind the camera sells the goods for this sort of strange and very atypical studio offering.
Anna Kendrick is her usual chipmunk-adorable self, getting some great and unexpected laughs (this film is rather funny in retrospect) and developing a nice chemistry with Affleck, who for his part, never wavered in his dedication to a very mysterious character who only gradually allows the audience into his world of layered pain. The flashback sequences are some of the most interesting moments in the entire film, as in those parts, there’s almost this ethereal superhero quality that the film takes on; it’s hard to describe. Jon Bernthal is absolutely terrific in a spirited supporting performance as a rival assassin who is tasked with finding Affleck, and J.K. Simmons, Jeffrey Tambor, Jon Lithgow, and the alluring Cynthia Addai-Robinson all deliver very solid turns. And by the end, while The Accountant might not have broken any new ground, it reminds that a well-oiled programmer with a lack of huge special effects or year-end award aspirations can be a very enjoyable alternative to the more overblown offerings that have come to dominate the cinematic landscape.
Review by Nick Clement