A film that thinks it’s way smarter than it is
There’s different levels of stupid. There is “funny” stupid, where you’re presented with something so ludicrously unrealistic on purpose to laugh at it. But there’s also “biblically” stupid, where you’re presented with something so ludicrously unrealistic, but told without a hint of sarcasm, that you end up laughing at it. The Accountant falls into the latter when the second half of the movie kicks in when insane, unprobable, and idiotic plot twists are piled and shoved in your screaming face.
So here’s the ‘sitch: Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, an autistic forensic accountant for some of the most dangerous criminals, cartels, and terrorist organizations in the entire world. When the Department of the Treasury’s Criminal Investigation Director (J.K. Simmons) becomes hellbent on uncovering Wolff’s identity, the Accountant takes a seemingly legal job of auditing a big robotics company. The company is looking for outside help after one of their own accountants, played by Anna Kendrick, discover discrepancies within the company’s books that spooks the CEO, played by John Lithgow. Of course, Wolff and Kendrick’s character discover something far more sinister, leading someone within the company to hire a hitman (The Punisher himself, Jon Bernthal) to take everyone out.
Now that sounds like a perfectly serviceable, pretty simple thriller right? Well the film plays to these beats very normally for the first half of the movie and it seems like the movie is confidently telling the story through thoughtful pacing, well shot fight scenes, and dropping interesting tidbits about Affleck’s character and his routine for you to get to know him. Incidentally, I know there are still people think it’s still fashionable to hate on Affleck (because apparently they haven’t watched a from him since Daredevil), but ol’ Ben knows how to act as he’s demonstrated countless times in The Town, Argo, and even serving as the one bright spot in the otherwise mediocre Batman v. Superman. Here he does a very solid job of portraying someone with a form of Asperger’s Syndrome, everything from nervous ticks to not maintaining eye contact with any character.
What I also appreciated is that they don’t pull the Rain Man thing where the movie portrays autism as some kind of superpower. Instead, The Accountant treats its main character’s mental condition as a trait of his that doesn’t necessarily give him perfect accuracy, but explains his demeanor around other people. He sells you on why he acts so emotionally distant, why he has a specific set of habits before he does any action, and why he doesn’t just go into hiding. Wolff’s form of autism necessitates him to “complete” any task set before him, regardless of danger to himself. So when someone or something gets in his way of completing his audit, his breakdown is both understandable and portrayed respectfully.
So wow all these positive things to say, so why did I start with such a nasty opening paragraph? Well voice in my head serving as the audience surrogate, it’s because this movie goes into goddamn bonkers town for the second half of the film. Without spoiling anything, the revelations given during this portion of the runtime made people in my theater laugh out loud, despite the movie playing the events completely straight without a hint of irony. The stupidity on display is fucking BIBLICAL, because the twists make no goddamn sense.
Alright, this parse how fucking dumb these twists are, I need to rag on J.K. Simmons’ story for a bit. Despite the fact the movie begins with Simmons blackmailing a Treasury analyst to hunt down the Accountant, Simmons doesn’t actually interact with the Affleck’s plot line at all. Him blackmailing this analyst might as well be a completely different movie than the 40 minutes it occupies in this film. Hell, you can cut Simmons’ and the analyst’s (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) story out entirely and you’ll have the EXACT same story only considerably shorter. And to put the cherry on top, the movie stops DEAD for twenty minutes as Simmons just breaks down the Accountant’s origin story (more on that in a bit) in a speech that might as well be vomiting exposition straight into your ears. The whole sequence feels completely out of place and what’s more, the origin story isn’t told in chronological order. Simmons just tries to keep Addai-Robinson in faux-suspense, as he drops explanation after explanation like a comic nerd poorly retelling an overly complicated story.
Speaking of comics, this movie ends up turning The Accountant into a straight up superhero. Either The Punisher or a Batman who kills…actually scratch that, I mean the current Batman played coincidentally by Ben Affleck. I’m really not kidding about the origin story, it even includes a scene where he’s learning martial arts with an Indonesian master (not fucking kidding). But the tinge of superheroism feels incongruous to a thriller that would normally be directed by Paul Greengrass if he has actually fucking trying. Hell, I’d like to see this director take a crack at directing an episode of the upcoming Punisher Netflix show because his fight scenes are generally well shot, giving the right amount of ferocity and efficiency.
But despite this director’s best efforts to turn this into a competent action movie, his choice to allow this script to progress the way it did is fucking embarrassing. Besides Simmons and Addai-Robinson being completely useless to the plot, you have Anna Kendrick playing an extremely annoying character. Keep in mind, I’m not criticizing her acting ability (she’s fine) but the character feels like an annoying puppy who doesn’t take the hint that Affleck just doesn’t really care for her (at first anyways). She reminded me of Emma Stone in Aloha who was similarly trying to win the affections of the main character in increasingly embarrassing ways.
Honestly, the only other character besides Affleck’s that was remotely interesting to see was the Assassin played by Jon Bernthal. As the man proved on The Walking Dead and in Netflix’s Daredevil, the man has demonstrated an ability to balance bad assery with a complex, emotional demeanor. And while his character contributes to the absolute bullshit that is the ending, Bernthal sells every moment he’s on screen. Honestly, I felt bad for him and for Affleck that both dudes had to waste their time with this trite, but both clearly showed up to work.
Still, the ending of this movie is a goddamn shit show. It’s so unbelievably ridiculous that you can’t take it seriously, both because it’s absurdly implausible and completely pointless. The last twenty minutes made want to hit the SOME OL’ BULLSHIT button, but balancing the mind-numbing stupidity is a pretty decent action flick. This might be one of my favorite bad films to watch this year because of how balls to the wall absurd the final act was; so with that, I’m giving this a low…