Friday, November 4, 2016

The Accountant

Some reviews have described the recent release THE ACCOUNTANT as a cross pollination of the BOURNE movies and RAIN MAN, which is a fair assessment.  Beforehand, I was not encouraged by this description as for all of its qualities I found RAIN MAN to be a highly overrated drama, a lost entry for a series of reviews I did here some years back.   Stories about autistic individuals always run the risk of being exploitative or unintentionally funny.  I have worked with numerous patients in the spectrum and can tell you firsthand their low moments are far from laugh worthy.  Add to this visions of a main character opening up a can of whoop ass on some bad guys and you have the makings of a potential camp fest.

Bill Dubuque's script mostly avoids becoming some sort of grotesque extravaganza, like when autistic children act up on daytime talk shows and are showcased as if some circus act.   The character of Christian Wolff is shown as a special needs child who does act out, sometimes violently, when he is unable to complete a task.  Or his routine is interrupted.  As an adult, Christian works as a forensic accountant tracking the "cooked books" of numerous international criminals.  By this time, Wolff has also built up an impressive set of tactical skills, the result of his time in the military and a martinet of a father who subjected the boy (and his brother) at a young age to intense training in Indonesian martial arts.  These skills will come in handy, for example, when revenge against the Gambino crime family will prove necessary.

Cristian is shown ritualistically torturing himself with a wooden rod while strobe lights and speed metal dominate his bedroom. Also, muttering nursery rhymes during key moments.  This sounds a bit showy and cliche, but somehow rather helps us understand the young man's private hell even better. 

Ben Affleck drains himself of his usual onscreen charm and smirk as he plays the titular hero, believable at every turn, whether puzzling out a company's spreadsheets during an all-night marathon or taking down an assortment of armed goons as he protects that company's junior accountant (Anna Kendrick) who's uncovered a major discrepancy on the books.  Kendrick is likeable as Dana and while it seems she will become a love interest, Dubuque's script thankfully refuses to cave in to such Hollywoodisms.

THE ACCOUNTANT does adhere to Screenwriting 101 rules, the most obvious of which is the old "If you introduce a gun in the first act, you gotta shoot somebody in the third".  Here, it is the repeated presence of Christian's brother in the childhood flashback scenes.  You just know he will show up again, and it shouldn't take you too long to figure out who he is.   Another: Wolff  for the first time fails to park his truck precisely in a garage when things start going badly.  It reminded me of that wildly silly moment in THE COOLER (in sort of a reverse way) when the main character, who usually only gets drips of milk for his coffee from his regular waitress' creamer, gets a generous pouring of the stuff when Lady luck is shining upon him.  Things like that make me crazy.

Director Gavin O'Connor stages strong action sequences and quieter character moments with equal adeptness.  A door has been left open for a sequel but I hope all is left alone.  The delivery to Dana's apartment at the close of THE ACCOUNTANT is really the perfect coda to her relationship with Christian, and for the film itself.

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