“Who needs a story to hang together or a character to not be a hideous, blank monster?” – Dara Higgins on The Accountant
The Accountant, who doesn’t appear to have a given name, is a psychopath. He just seems to like murdering people. He does it a lot, with the same clinical precision he’d employ while doing your taxes. His backstory, revealed in flashback, throws light on his autism, his brutal army father, his absent mother, his itinerant, globetrotting upbringing, shows us how, but not why, he’s a cold blooded killer.
Other than nerveless killing, The Accountant’s chief talent is accountancy, being a math savant. He uses his gift to cook, and uncook, books for all manner of international uber-criminals, earning himself obscene amounts of lolly. His ubiquity amid the world’s top scumbags brings his half obscured mug to the notice of the Treasury Department. Head honcho, Ray King (J.K. Simmons, barely awake) wants answers, and he wants them now. And who better to get them than some raw young one called Clarice St…Marybeth Medina, who’s a reluctant foil until J.K. reminds her she lied on her application form. Do the work, or jail he says. Forced into a corner, she acquiesces. It doesn’t pay to wonder at this stage of the film why he couldn’t just ask an actual agent with an unblemished record who can do some rudimentary police work, but hey! Where’s the cliché in that?
Meanwhile, with feds snooping, and looking for a change of pace, The Accountant (going by the name of well-known mathematician Christian Wolff) ditches warlords and goes corporate, skimming through the books of robotics magnate John Lithgow, and uncovering a scam that puts both he and local bookkeeper Dana (Anna Kendrick) in deathly trouble, pursued as they are by a gang of guns for hire lead by Brax (Jon Bernthal’s mussed hair). Which isn’t really much of a problem for Wolf, because, as pointed out earlier, he’s a stone cold killer. Presumably because he doesn’t make attachments with people, what with the autism and what have you, apart from the attachment he seems to be making with Dana cos, why? Who knows? Who cares?! Strap yourself in! He has to kill a lot of people for about an hour and somehow that’s a story. Kapow! It’s a nerd, but he’s fucking murdering people. HA HA! Check that out. The action, as in the headshots, ratchets up as Wolf and Dana are chased by Treasury and gangsters.
Affleck’s goofy, douchey charm imbues the Accountant with some manner of humanity, but it doesn’t really detract from the fact the man is a ruthless killer and a criminal. And his hokey attempts at real people antics are played for the same laughs as they’re hoping to get out of Affleck ending a conversation by shooting someone in the head. Because that’s what he does. Headshots. Loves them.
The unravelling of the mystery by the FBI is convoluted and unnecessary. How is Medina so bloody sure she’s got her man? Why would this autistic, cold blooded genius, launder his money through a shop next to his office? And have the homely farming couple he also seems to have formed an attachment with not mentioned to the cops the whole shitstorm down at the ranch? You’ll know it when you see it. There’s a headshot, then an awkward wave. Guffaw! He thinks he’s people. But seriously. Surely such carry on would blip on the Fed’s radar?
We’re nit picking. Who needs a story to hang together or a character to not be a hideous, blank monster? Fuck that shit. That’s for Werner Herzog or one of them geezers. Gratuitous murder salves those wounds.
Simmons is in a coma here. Lithgow’s aloof patrician is stock. Jon Bernthal’s off the peg, comic book villain may well represent the limit of his abilities, and Anna Kendrick’s mousy anonymity suits her mousy, anonymous character. The somewhat open ended dénouement suggests at a sequel. Maybe a franchise, along the lines of Bourne, or the like. The Bourne comparison is entirely mine, but I use to make the point that in the Bourne movies when Jason kills man, it’s earned, it’s life or death, and it’s never played for laughs.
In trying to weld together backstory and spaghetti-straight twists the movie tries to be a lot cleverer than it actually is. Because it’s not clever. It’s brain-dead. Not smart enough to follow through on its spider’s web of a story, not nuanced enough to pull of being some kind of commentary of any of its themes; autism, gun crime, corruption, family, not even particularly funny or thrilling. Just shiny, blank, nonsense. The Accountant, a maths savant serial killer, isn’t the hero America wants, neither is he the hero American needs, he’s not even a hero America can like, and they like some reprehensible pricks, but you get the impression that he’s the hero we’re all going to have rammed down our throat.