Weak Script Brings Film Down
By Rami Tabari
While effectively enlightening people on the subject of autism through Ben Affleck’s faithful portrayal of an autistic protagonist and delivering well choreographed fight scenes, “The Accountant” falls short with its overly coincidental plot.
Christian Wolff, a freelance accountant for dangerous people around the globe, was diagnosed with a high functioning form of autism as a child. As a result, his father trained him in martial arts to overcome people that might take advantage of him.
“The Accountant” conveys the idea that autism isn’t a weakness, just a difference; and if you have autism, you’re not simply doomed to fail in life. Here, you have a protagonist living with his autism while being fully capable of leading a “normal” life.
The film doesn’t try to overwhelm you by exaggerating the consequences of his autism.
Rather than irritating the audience with inflated representations of autism, it is made evident that he is different through his mannerisms and routines.
Affleck’s marvelous performance spurred the film’s powerful message. You didn’t see his Batman-esque brooding character, you saw an awkward person trying to connect to other people and his portrayal of that character was surprisingly authentic.
At one point Wolff is standing behind a poster with a robotic arm, this is a subtle reference to Wolff’s “robotic” nature. On the opposite end was a human arm which introduced Wolff’s new client that acted natural and “human.”
This is a much appreciated little detail that drives the idea that Wolff struggles with expressing his emotions.
Wolff’s character is compulsively precise in everything that he does from accounting, to fighting, to shooting. His ideal for perfection makes him feel relatable and easy to sympathize with. People without autism strive for perfection all the time, but have the ability to stop themselves unlike Wolff who cannot control his urge to complete tasks.
The film manages to captivate you through its intensity with smoothly choreographed fight scenes using an Indonesian martial art called Pencat Silat. In that form, you could see a little Batman in Wolff’s character.
In the background of Wolff’s vigilante-esque activities, the treasury department is closing in on him. Characters Ray King (J.K. Simmons) and Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) lead an ultimately boring investigation that is sprung up by nothing but coincidences.
At every turn, Medina’s logic in discovering Wolff’s whereabouts are beyond ridiculous and heavily reliant on deus ex machina to assist. The simplicity of the investigation is borderline childish, never mind the poor acting that made you wish Affleck would appear on screen already.
A delightful dynamic that the film introduced was romance through Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) and Wolff. The awkward, yet entertaining, chemistry between Affleck and Kendrick’s characters opened up an interesting idea when we think about people with autism.
They’re just like us, awkward and anxious as hell when it comes to talking to other people. The point is to be understanding, and the film drives that point through comedic and endearing moments between these characters. Brax, the antagonist trying to kill Wolff, was written in a way that’s simply intriguing. Rather than being a cliche villain, he is more down to earth and logical.
Jon Bernthal is to thank for why Brax’s character is so likeable. With his charm and compelling acting, you get wrapped up in every scene he’s in.
Affleck and Bernthal really push this film in terms of performance, there comes a point when everything else is just so uninteresting that you beg for these two to be on screen.
When Wolff and Brax eventually face off, which is the closest thing we’ll ever get to a Batman vs Punisher spin off, an aurally stunning soundtrack accompanied by emotional dialogue is packed into a heart-wrenching fight that is the highlight of the film.
While the performances from the two are spectacular, the reason the characters are brought together at the end is ultimately the result of lazy writing. A spoiler is revealed and it happens to be the most coincidental plot point in the already coincidental movie.
This specific plot point completely ruined the script’s seriousness and to make it worse, the characters even poke fun at it themselves, which does not help its case.
Even though this may make viewers want to rip their hair out, Affleck and Bernthal practically saved it with their charming performance and character dynamic with one another.
“The Accountant” fails in many aspects of being a coherent and well thought out film, yet it is still worthy of watching in theaters because of its amazing performances, intense action, and educational role in autism awareness.