Found your brother, Hanna. He might even pass as your twin, too.
Besides being Black List alumni and outcasts as protagonists, both have surprising amounts of humanity beneath the action garb. Under Gavin O’Connor’s direction, though, the tale of the accountant/badass has no time for fairy-tale symbolism and visual flourishes; this production is a grounded, lean puzzler from inception to execution.
“The Accountant,” then, is thoroughly engaging because O’Connor and writer Bill Dubuque leave the assembling of the full picture to the viewers. Why can’t Treasury Department agent Ray (J.K. Simmons) stop pursuing Chris (Ben Affleck)? Does the missing money Chris and Dana (Anna Kendrick) uncover a usual accounting error? Can Dana give normalcy to Chris? Who is Chris? Each question resembles a mini-puzzle that combines into a bigger one; each piece of information is given at the right moment so you’ll remain compelled to work toward the final product.
Some of the puzzles are, however, more satisfying than others: There are a couple of plot strands require a slight tonal detour or an excruciatingly neat climax to work. While the former works personally since a kindness here and a chuckle there balance out the film’s matter-of-fact, masculine shell, the latter brings a convenient quality that defeats the effective, natural slow-build of the first two acts. Also, unlike “Hanna” where the character’s journey chugs along even when it’s delivering backstory, “The Accountant” has to interrupt the narrative often to reveal Chris’ origins through Ray.
But even as a walking exposition device, Simmons delivers an amiable performance as a figure of authority whose laid-back diction masks his restlessness in figuring out this enigma of an accountant. Kendrick’s character is the only outsider who is close to Chris, distance and emotion-wise, and the role is yet another chance for the actress to play up her distinct awkward-but-determined charm. Some of the film’s more enjoyable scenes come when Dana and Chris are together; these are where Affleck shows his character’s grand heart, and this slight desire for belonging, as he listens to Dana sharing experiences that a more “normal” Chris could have had.
Unfortunately, though, Dubuque has to let this relationship take a rest to move to the next emotional/character revelation. The film sees it as a major twist even though it was highly telegraphed.
It sounds like I’m describing a drama, but don’t worry. No stranger to brawls—as seen in “Warrior”—O’Connor frames the film’s many Pencak Silat/bullet-trading sequences that with an adequate sound system can bruise ribs and eardrums. Much to my surprise, editor Richard Pearson actually lets the action be seen clearly rather than resorting to the rapid-fire cutting of “The Bourne Supremacy” (in which he gained a bit of notoriety on message boards for). Also excellent is director of photography Seamus McGarvey, who sticks to more earthly work post-“Godzilla” and “Avengers” and livens the film with deep browns, chilly gray and a lot of shadows.
Ben Affleck (Chris), Anna Kendrick (Dana), J.K. Simmons (Ray), Jon Bernthal (Braxton), Jeffrey Tambor (Francis), John Lithgow (Lamar), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Marybeth)
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor (“Warrior”)
Written by: Bill Dubuque (“The Judge”)
Cinematography by: Seamus McGarvey (“The Soloist”)
128 min., R
Release date: Oct. 14
6.5 out of 10.