365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

16Mar/170

The Accountant (2016)

Gavin O'Connor's (Pride and Glory, Miracle) The Accountant is a movie that resonated with audiences ($86 million at the box office, 78% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes) but nearly as much with critics (a score of just 51% on Rotten Tomatoes). I saw the movie on its opening weekend because I thought the trailer looked fantastic and I've been a big fan of just about everything Ben Affleck (Argo, Gone Girl) touches, both in front of behind the camera since 2007's Gone Baby Gone, a film that the led to his reemergence as a Hollywood A-lister. The Accountant looked like it would be the type of movie I love, a gritty drama/thriller that is dark, mysterious, and violent. The Accountant is just that, with its lead character is some masterful number cruncher by day and assassin by night. I was disappointed that I did not enjoy as much as I had hoped. More perturbing was that so many of my friends would ask me if I liked the movie and when I would have to tell them that I didn't, they would be surprised and said that they liked it. I chalked it up to me not having a good day at the theater. Perhaps I was tired, didn't feel like being at the movies that day (unlikely), or caught up in texting someone in an empty theater (more likely). I decided I would give the movie another chance when it came to Netflix and, this time, really pay attention. Since so many people saw this movie or are wanting to see it, I was determined to give it as solid of a review as I could. While I did like my second viewing more, I still didn't love it. And I think a lot of it had to do with me wanting to know everything that was happening and wanting to make sense of it. I was struggling to do this. I had to look at some spoiler sites and read some reviews of others to really appreciate this movie for what it's worth. There is an audience for it. If you like the Jason Bourne movies, you'll likely like this. Likewise, if you like movies that have its lead characters dealing with a group of complex disorders of brain development, which is one definition of Autism, you'll like this movie. The Accountant is a movie that I recommend with the preface that you really need to pay attention to this film at all times as there is a lot happening at once. And, also, you need to suspend your beliefs to really enjoy the film. The Accountant (Affleck's character) is a man who can do it all. But then again, so is Jason Bourne and most people (including me) love those movies, especially the first three.

What I appreciated most about this movie is its originality. In an age where superhero movies, predefined trilogies become extended sagas, and reboots are made from reboots are becoming the norm rather than the exception, I can appreciate ANY attempt at something that is imaginative or fresh. What I disliked most about the movie was its matter of convenience. Everything was tied together in some fashion from the very beginning and, while the movie had its share of suspenseful moments, you never felt like Christian Wolfe (aka The Accountant) was in any sort of danger or that things would not work out for him in the end. As mentioned in the opening paragraph of this review, I did appreciate that the film's lead had a disorder or social disconnect (or Autism). I think there are many different terms, labels, or acronyms that we hear and use in our everyday life that maybe we don't know enough about. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of 2012, there was 1 person born out of every 68 with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The number of diagnoses in 2012 was more than double that of 2000 (1 in every 150 children). It's a diagnosis that has different types as well. Three of those are Asperger's, Rett's Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD-NOS), Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Autistic Disorder. The range of a functioning level with an Autism diagnosis ranges from those who are not able to function in society because of their impairments (low functioning or severe) to those who can work and live independently, have normal or above average intelligence, have fewer behavioral issues, and generally less awkward (mild or high functioning). I mention this because, as a former high school teacher, I often had students with Autism in class. There were times when having a student with Autism in class made each class much harder than it would have been without him in it, other times when the student with Autism was the highlight of my entire day and other times when I wouldn't have even known that the student had Autism if not for reading it in his Individualized Education Program (IEP). If you'd like to learn more about the different levels of Autism, I encourage you to check out this link.

Christian Wolfe has high-functioning autism. We learn this about him through a series of flashbacks, starting with a scene at the Harbor Neuroscience Institute in New Hampshire. Christian is there with is slightly younger brother Brax, his mother, and his father. His parents are trying to get the psychologist to label their son so they know how to best address his needs. We learn that Christian only wears a single shirt, possibly due to tactile sensitivity. He has an abnormal responsiveness to bright lights and loud noises. We learn that he has difficulty maintaining eye contact and that he is likely to channel his anxiety into repetitive behaviors like shaking, tapping his fingers and talking to himself. In short, he's going to have some challenges growing up. During this meeting, we watch Christian putting together a complex puzzle, only to completely freak out when he is unable to finish because it's missing a single piece. When a young girl finds the missing piece on the ground, he is able to calm himself. We see that it is a puzzle of Muhammad Ali that Christian assembled face down, using just the solid white backs of each piece to create the puzzle in a short period of time.

Christian is an extremely intelligent and very high functioning. However, he still has many of the quirks that he had when he was a child such as blowing on his fingers before he picks up his silverware. His mother is no longer in the picture, but over the years his father trained him and his brother into fighting machines, just as well equipped in hand-to-hand combat as they are long-range rifle sniping. Christian works for a dangerous global network of criminals. He travels the world, using his mind and his body to cheat, steal, and kill. Christian is worth a lot, but you'd never know it by looking at his bank accounts. Much of his payment comes in the form of pure gold bars, original artwork, and first edition comic books that he then has to trade in for real money. He lives in a small, barren. He has exactly one fork, one spoon, and one knife in his utensil drawer. At night he goes to his bedroom and turns on a strobe light while playing loud and heavy music while rolling his muscles HARD with a wooden rolling stick. With the physical pain he's putting on his lower legs and the strong external stimuli of the lights and noise, he does his best to remain calm until the same time of each night, when his alarm clock goes off, and he can stop the torture by taking his Zoloft and going to bed. Christian has the need for repetition and routine in his life even though this contradicts what he does for his career. His assignments require doing so many different tasks in so many different places.

His current assignment has him using his white collar skills over his blue collar ones. He's to work a legitimate job as an auditor for a company called Living Robotics. We never meet his boss. We only hear her voice on the phone and see text messages on Christian's screen. Lamar (John Lithgow - Terms of Endearment, The World According to Garp) is the company's Chief Executive Officer and he is upset from the beginning that an external firm has been hired to try and figure out a major discrepancy that is in their accounting books. He's also upset with Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick - Up in the Air, Pitch Perfect), the young in-house accountant who stirred things up by discovering the discrepancy when she was "sticking her nose in things that weren't her business". Lamar seems to be a little too upset when he claims he has nothing to hide. Christian and Dana do their work and find that $61 million is missing only to then be called off the case because of an incident that can explain how the money went missing. But this explanation doesn't suffice Christian and it eats away at him.

Not to skip all over the place, but after this incident, Christian has two different parties coming after him. There is one group that wants to kill him. There is another, led by Ray King (JK Simmons - Juno, Whiplash), the director of financial crimes at the Treasury Department and Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), a young analyst with a checkered past. Ray has been trying to find this accountant for years and while he's been close before, he's never been able to bring him to justice. And, unknowingly, Dana gets caught up in the game of cat and mouse and though he is told by the voice on the phone to not worry about her, it's something he cannot do. Christian soon finds out who is on his tail and soon the hunted becomes the hunter in a fun, but all too convenient final act that ties past to present and, of course, presents our lead in a favorable light even though he's killed and stolen from innocent people for years, and makes James Bond, John Wick, and Leon the Professional look like amateurs.

The positive things that stood out for me...

  • A character, for the most part, successfully portraying a what it's like to have a disability
  • The action scenes
  • The tone
  • The acting, outside of Kendrick who I just have yet to like in a role
  • The suspense

What I didn't like as much...

  • Too many coincidences
  • Never feeling like Affleck's character was in danger
  • The entire third act (outside of the action)
  • The tie-in between the characters portrayed by Affleck and Simmons
  • The fact that it took me two viewings and a couple of different summary readings to truly comprehend everything I had seen

In the end, though, this is a fan's movie and not a critic's. If you can just put everything aside and go in there with an open mind and not worry about the plausibility, I think you'll like it, maybe even a lot.

Plot 8.5/10
Character Development 8/10
Character Chemistry 7/10
Acting 8/10
Screenplay 8/10
Directing 8/10
Cinematography 8.5/10
Sound 8.5/10
Hook and Reel 8.5/10
Universal Relevance 8/10
81%

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