The Accountant (2016)
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor | 128 minutes | action, crime, drama, thriller | Actors: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, JK Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Jeffrey Tambor, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, John Lithgow, Jean Smart, Andy Umberger, Alison Wright, Jason Davis, Robert C. Treveiler, Mary Kraft, Seth Lee, Jake Presley , Izzy Fenech, Ron Prather, Susan Williams
A new superhero has emerged: The Accountant. Like no other, he can sneak up on his opponents undetected or take them out with surgical precision from great distances with his sniper rifle. The source of his superpowers? No spider bite or gamma rays, he is ‘just’ autistic. Ok, ok, it’s not presented so bluntly and simply – our superhero has also just been drilled to the bone by his loving militaristic father – but it’s one of the connections you could make in the rather curious, but equally entertaining action thriller ‘ The Accountant’.
Actually, ‘The Accountant’ still pays surprisingly much and understanding attention to autism. An attempt is actually made to put the finger on the sore spot. It is important to guard against labeling too easily and to try to influence the perspective of the environment. For example, the problem is not so much that an autistic child cannot communicate (well) but that the environment must learn to listen better, or in a different way. Furthermore, there is not one form of autism in which a standardized approach is sufficient. It’s about customization and partly about accepting that not everyone will be able to lead the same kind of life. But this does not mean that one type of life is less valuable than another.
This ‘information’ reaches the viewer especially in the beginning of the film, when the young Christian Wolff (Affleck) is diagnosed at an institution or home for children with these kinds of problems. However, the subtlety is soon over when we see how the rigid father deals with the advice to seek out and increase rather than avoid certain stimuli to which his son is sensitive – such as a lot of light or sound. . His vision: if my child can’t stand this, he needs more of it, not less. Because society is simply full of incentives and will not treat him with velvet gloves. Quite an interesting – albeit radical – theory, but dear father is going a little overboard here. For example, he has him – together with his brother – train until he bleeds by a teacher in the Philippine martial art Pencak Silat, while he watches. So that he will be hardened for his later life; or the confrontation with the big final boss of the film of course.
The latter seems to be the real reason. Apparently the filmmakers themselves also realized that it is a bit crude and implausible to suggest that Wolff could be a perfectly focused and emotionless killer solely because of his autism. So the film gets this Rocky/Van Damme-esque background story, which in turn gives the whole a high B-movie content again and loses more of its focus.
Quite a lot of balls have to be kept in the air, as it turns out during the course (and also at the end) of the film. In addition to the elements discussed, there is also romance involved, the story of the detective on his tail, the dirty business of one of Wolff’s clients (which is no surprise, since he usually works for criminals) and the sympathetic poor , elderly couple who protect Wolff as surrogate parents and who help to ‘beautify’ their tax return. And of course he also has to be brilliant in business. He cannot be ‘just’ autistic and have a dual identity; a boring pen slicker by day and a superhero with a sniper rifle by night. No, he needs to be able to chalk up all the office walls with impossible formulas – in movies where is a notebook or pack of printing paper when you need it? – and be able to solve difficult sums within a second, with 6 digits after the decimal point.
It all adds little, just like the surprise at the end of the film, when suddenly a (melo)dramatic storyline makes its appearance and the whole thing turns into a kind of soap opera. It mainly distracts from the elements, characters and storylines that do matter. For example, the duality of the superhero persona of the central character is indeed intriguing, but we actually get to know little about this. We do not see how Wolff started, what prompted him to do this, how he got to his previous (criminal) clients, the contact has (expired) with his mysterious telephone assistant. Just to name a few. His romantic ‘object’ (Anna Kendrick) also deserved more depth.
Precisely because ‘The Accountant’ knows how to captivate on various levels and moments, it is frustrating that we no longer get to see or find out. For example, the interactions between Affleck and Kendrick are charming; and Affleck manages to keep a pretty good balance between showing affection and sticking to his character’s social limitations. Also, in a general sense, the way in which he goes through life, with his neuroses and personal solutions for this – arranging things, or sticking to tics, extreme regularity and rhythms – remains interesting.
Furthermore, it cannot be a coincidence that, especially in the first half of the film, many compositions resemble paintings: we see Wolff at the table in his apartment, filmed through the opening of a wall, which forms a perfect frame around his head. Or he is shown talking to a customer standing in front of a poster in an office, which he seems to be part of. In short, just like (a part of) his own life and behaviour: tightly ordered and exactly within the lines. While, of course, his dangerous, criminal activity makes him seem or threaten to cross the lines again, and it is also significant that the painting that most occupies him himself is a wild, dark interplay of lines by Jackson Pollock. But of course still within the scope of the list. How can one be reconciled with the other?
Perhaps ‘The Accountant’ is not the kind of film to indulge in many ‘deep’ lectures, but it does seem to point to the tension that forms – or should form – the basis of the film. The elaboration of this contrast between danger/chaos and security/order is, in principle, what is the strength of the film’s concept. Because that is not entirely unimportant: the action and thriller moments are also really effective. There is tension in the nighttime chases and the confrontations are brutal and relentless; one minute you’re startled by a well-aimed, whistling bullet from the Accountant’s sniper rifle—which immediately knocks out a villain—and the next, Wolff comes up close and personal with an effective stab or pistol shot to the head, from very fired at close range, as John Wick likes to do. Moments like these actually make The Accountant an exciting film. With a little more focus and patience it could have been a good one. Maybe Christian Wolff has some tips.