FILM REVIEW: The Accountant (15) ***

In 1998, childhood friends Ben Affleck and Matt Damon excitedly clutched Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting, an emotionally rich drama about a mathematics genius, who works as a janitor.

Friday, 4th November 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 5:02 pm
Ben Affleck as Chris Wolff and Anna Kendrick as Dana Cummings. PA Photo/Warner Bros.

Their subsequent acting careers have followed different trajectories.

Damon has been a lynchpin in the Ocean’s Eleven and Jason Bourne franchises, and worked on numerous awards-worthy projects including Saving Private Ryan, The Talented Mr Ripley, The Departed, Invictus, Interstellar and The Martian.

By contrast, Affleck squandered his talents in Pearl Harbor, Daredevil and Gigli and only enjoyed a renaissance in front of the camera when he began honing his craft as a director with Gone Baby Gone and The Town, culminating in his Best Picture win for Argo.

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In the sharp-shooting thriller The Accountant, Affleck attempts to muscle in on Damon’s status as a tormented assassin by playing an autistic number cruncher, who is equally gifted with his fists and a rifle.

Think Good Will Hunting meets Jason Bourne, without the finesse or nervous energy of those pictures.

Christian Wolff (Affleck) meticulously investigates embezzlement, insider trading and other financial irregularities in criminal enterprises.

He works alone and is ruthless in his pursuit of wrongdoing.

The Treasury Department, led by soon-to-retire financial crimes director, Raymond King (JK Simmons), is determined to expose Wolff as the shadowy figure called The Accountant.

King blackmails ambitious analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) into following the evidence trail and confirming Wolff’s involvement.

She has one month to deliver results or face criminal charges for a serious lapse of judgement in her past.

Meanwhile, Wolff is hired by Lamar Blackburn (John Lithgow), long-serving CEO of Living Robotics, to verify the findings of a perky in-house accountant, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick), who alleges more than 60 million dollars of company funds have gone astray.

Wolff’s forensic examination of 15 years’ of data coincides with a series of suspicious deaths orchestrated by a bruising hit man (Jon Bernthal).

The Accountant is a slick, engrossing romp that uses the lead character’s developmental disability as a hook for cheap yet satisfying thrills.

Screenwriter Bill Dubuque cooks the books with lazy action thriller cliches but has great fun disguising the conventional checks and balances.

There are several key deposits in the entertainment column: Affleck’s measured performance as an anti-social assassin incapable of forging close personal ties; Simmons’ meaty supporting turn; a mosaic of flashbacks to adolescence when Chris’ military officer father (Robert C Treveiler) pushes his son (Seth Lee) past breaking point; and testosterone-fuelled fight sequences.

Kendrick’s disappointingly lightweight damsel in distress is a sizeable deduction, and a major plot revelation is both contrived and improbable.

Ultimately, The Accountant quite doesn’t add up, but Gavin O’Connor’s enjoyable film still delivers a modest profit.