A forensic accountant un-cooks the books for illicit clients.
Review by Louise Keller:
Be prepared to be startled: this thumping thriller is full of dark themes, secrets and unexpected revelations. The plot is like a jigsaw puzzle that takes shape slowly and keeps us guessing until the very end. You will need to pay attention: Gavin O'Connor's film is a mix of heavy-duty action and fascinating mind games, with Ben Affleck's mathematics prodigy protagonist an overtly complex character. Some of the elements of Bill Dubuque's screenplay are difficult to unscramble and there are a couple of plot holes, but the overall film is striking, the various flaws can be forgiven. There is nothing by the book about this accountant.
Autism and the best way to deal with it is one of the themes canvassed, beginning with the flashback sequences when we meet a family in crisis, unable to resolve their differences about how to deal with the older of their two boys, who is clearly 'different' from the rest. Robert C. Treveiler takes on the meaty role of the young Chris's father, who as an army man, believes in pushing the limits and concentrating on extreme physical defense tactics, rather than a more conventional approach.
Affleck's Christopher Wolff is the accountant that serves up miracles for his crooked clients. He might have difficulty with eye contact, loud noises and bright lights, but he has no trouble in locating their companies' multi-million dollar holes. He is fascinating and Affleck delivers a complex, layered character in an understated, yet physical way. He is a mix between Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind and Jason Statham in any number of action films. His martial arts prowess and ability to hit his mark from any distance is pretty much too good to be true. Watching Affleck meticulously arrange his eggs and bacon on a plate before switching on a strobe light and listening to heavy metal, while hitting himself with a wooden stick is a sight to behold.
The mainstay of the plot involves Treasury's Financial Crime director Raymond King (J.K. Simons) who recruits a smart analyst, Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to identify and locate the accountant that is enabling the cartels to continue to operate. Meanwhile, Chris is scribbling numbers all over the walls and windows of a prosthetics company, which is where he meets Anna Kendrick's researcher, Dana Cummings, who also likes finding things that are not obvious. They talk about dogs playing poker, Renoir and Jackson Pollock. (Kendrick is delightful and this role allows her to be at her quirky best).
The entire cast is strong with John Lithgow as the company head, Jeffrey Tambor as a felon and Jon Bernthal as the villainous Braxton. The way the film suddenly turns into heavy action is sudden and unexpected: we are dragged along and become part of the rollercoaster ride. The strangeness of some physical reactions and dialogue elicits laughter, which almost comes as light relief to the non-stop physical action and body count.
There are many questions to be answered including whose is the silky female voice to which Chris listens on the phone? And how do all the characters fit together? The two key revelations hit like bombshells and we are kept guessing the significance of the mysterious opening sequence until the end.
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ACCOUNTANT, THE (MA15+)
CAST: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J. K. Simmons, Jon Bernthal, Alison Wright, John Lithgow, Jeffrey Tambour, Cynthia Addai-Robinson
PRODUCER: Mark Williams
DIRECTOR: Gavin O'Connor
SCRIPT: Bill Dubuque
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Seamus McGarvey
EDITOR: Richard Pearson
MUSIC: Mark Isham
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Keith P. Cunningham
RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 3, 2016