Autistic-savant syndrome is defined as a condition in which individuals with autism possess extraordinary skills that aren’t exhibited by most people. This syndrome is also referred to as the ‘Rain Man’ disease, appropriately coined after the release of Barry Levinson’s film with the same name, where the main character Raymond Babbitt is indeed autistic, but also displays a remarkable ability to memorise almost anything. It would be unfair to say that Gavin O’Connor’s The Accountant rips off this idea, but you wouldn’t be wrong in saying that it’s very similar in its presentation. Only this time the syndrome can also spark violent tendencies. Like, neck-snapping and throat-cutting types of outbursts.
Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is an autistic and exceptionally talented math genius. His spectacular ability to examine and uncook financial records feels nothing short of supernatural, yet his almost superhuman abilities aren’t the only things that stand out. Although he may not be able to function in society as most individuals can, he sure knows how to stylistically murder nine assailants without breaking a sweat.
Behind closed doors, Wolff works as a freelance accountant for various criminal organisations, which in turn, alerts the Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division (that’s a mouthful), run by J.K. Simmons’ Ray King. As King and co. start to close in, Wolff tries to remain off the radar by taking on a legitimate client, ‘Living Robotics’, a company with a central focus on the development of revolutionary technology. However, seeing as this would be an exceptionally dull plot for a movie, Christian starts to uncover a hidden truth about missing expenditures.
The Accountant is a movie that isn’t afraid to delve into the psychology of the condition that it tailors its narrative around. In fact, the film clearly outlines the everyday struggles that those suffering with autism may have, especially through its use of cinematography. Seamus McGarvey skilfully establishes an empathetic relationship between Wolff and the viewer through continuous close-ups of perfectly arranged furniture and symmetrical composition, giving off the impression that Affleck’s character is in constant conflict with his condition.
However, the film also contradicts itself. Whilst on one hand it attempts to raise awareness about the difficulties that autism bears, it also tries to use the condition as a weapon; as a way of glorifying violence. The Accountant may have initially planned to be an autistic-empowering piece of inspiration, trying to outline the condition as a ‘difference’ rather than an impairment – but it fails this task. Instead, the movie over-sensationalises a syndrome that many people wrestle with, through its continuous need to use autism as a way of achieving perfect kills and awe-evoking brutality.
Anna Kendrick is also in this movie, although her performance as the love interest of our protagonist won’t be one to remember. Her portrayal of Dana Cummings was nothing more than an expositional device, rather than a character with an ounce of depth attached. J.K. Simmons has had better performances, too. His minimal amount of screen-time feels like a serious waste of talent, so if you’re looking for a strong performance from the Oscar-winning actor, I’d recommend you watch Whiplash, instead.
Bill Dubuque’s noticeable inexperience as a writer for the big screen doesn’t help things, either. The unrealistic dialogue on offer encouraged stale performances from the supporting cast, something that was a real detriment to the movie as a whole. Whenever Affleck wasn’t snapping necks and shooting enemies between the eyes, the film really needed some snappy and authentic dialogue to keep us invested, but sadly this wasn’t the case.
Although The Accountant has a strong second act, it’s sadly followed by a denoument that attempts to be more impactful than it actually is. The conclusive ‘twist’ just doesn’t add up (pun intended) and feels overly on-the-nose to the extent that there were groans being let out from the screening I attended. The movie doesn’t allow us to invest in the flimsy revelation, and seeing as this was intended to be a dramatic finale, it left a taste of disappointment in the mouths of paying viewers.
An Unconvincing Thriller.
The Accountant‘s tagline, ‘calculate your decisions’, couldn’t be more close to the truth. Calculate them, debate them, and you should reach the conclusion that your money might be better spent somewhere else.