Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) is a math savant with more affinity for numbers than people. Behind the cover of a small-town CPA office, he works as a freelance accountant for some of the world's most dangerous criminal organizations. With the Treasury Department's Crime Enforcement Division, run by Ray King (J.K. Simmons), starting to close in, Christian takes on a legitimate client: a state-of-the-art robotics company where an accounting clerk (Anna Kendrick) has discovered a discrepancy involving millions of dollars. But as Christian uncooks the books and gets closer to the truth, it is the body count that starts to rise.
In 'The Accountant,' the filmmakers make a genuine attempt at depicting autism with respect and sensitivity. Gavin O'Connor, arguably best known for 'Miracle' but whose 'Jane Got a Gun' went largely ignored last year, goes to extraordinary measures, carefully walking that line between reality and sensationalism. And on several occasions, he and his team choose to go with a portrayal of the complex developmental disability versus embellishment for dramatic effect, revealing a warm and tender side at the core of Bill Dubuque's original script. However, this is not enough to save it from bending truth significantly and being largely unexceptional, despite its interestingly unique premise about a rather exceptional person. 'Rain Man,' 'The Boy Who Could Fly' or 'Adam' this is not, which is not to suggest their representation of a person on the spectrum to be any more accurate. But as a dramatic actioner or an action drama, it's on par with 'Mercury Rising' or Prachya Pinkaew's martial arts flick 'Chocolate.'
And so it is that Ben Affleck's performance as Christian Wolff, a full-time accountant with a seemingly supernatural talent for both numbers as well as different methods for killing people, feels largely wasted. Over the last few years, the actor has proven himself quite the thespian, most recently silencing and astonishing naysayers when he donned the Batsuit last year, while also making his mark behind the camera. Here, Mr. Affleck is the strong and silent type, sitting behind a plain, tidy desk inside a methodically arranged and grayish dull office, softly advising a couple on tax loopholes. Amusing as this introduction is, this isn't the moment Wolff impresses his audience with his unusual mathematical talents. The filmmakers save that for a little later when he's hired by a robotics corporation to audit and iron out some suspicious financial discrepancies. In one night, armed with two boxes of colored markers and glass walls, he sifts through fifteen years of bookkeeping to discover someone has embezzled $61 million.
By this point, the audience should be thoroughly impressed by what Wolff is capable of, possibly making a similar facial expression as the company's regular accountant Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick) when she finds him still working the following morning. Everyone else, including the people who hired him (John Lithgow and Jean Smart), are equally surprised but oddly upset. Unfortunately, for the both of them, the person behind it all — which, shame on the filmmakers for making that too easy to figure out — now needs to move quickly and hide evidence of the crime. This means enlisting some tough and rowdy goons led by Jon Bernthal ('Daredevil'), whose expertise is apparently scaring people into doing his bidding, such as coercing one into self-overdosing with insulin. Scary as Bernthal may be, moviegoers have nothing to fear, for our hero turns out to also be a military trained assassin, shown through flashbacks at the hands of a rather callous father who believed his method more beneficial for managing his son's condition.
And this is where 'The Accountant' encounters some unexpected setbacks and clerical anomalies in its storytelling, along with several other head scratching hiccups that don't quite add up. Despite O'Connor delivering a mildly entertaining crime actioner — fairly pedestrian, to be honest, but maintaining interest until a shocking twist ending that's neither shocking nor satisfying — the director fails to ever generate suspense. Even fight sequences appear robotic and choreographed while shootouts feel like 'John Wick' counterfeits, down to the dead, cold expression of Affleck as he takes out supposedly dangerous mercs with ease. We never doubt or worry Wolff could be defeated or that his enemy might possibly win because his skills are always shown to be superior. Meanwhile, J.K. Simmons makes an appearance in what amounts to nothing more than a speaking walk-on role, adding absolutely nothing significant to the plot. After crunching the numbers, the film is a penny stock not worth investing your time.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Home Video brings 'The Accountant' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with an UltraViolet Digital Copy. A Region Free, BD50 disc sits comfortably opposite a DVD-9 inside a blue, eco-cutout case with a shiny slipcover. After a couple trailers, viewers are taken to a static menu screen with generic options and music in the background.
'The Accountant' debuts on Blu-ray with a first-rate, near-reference quality 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode, showing lots of clarity and definition in Seamus McGarvey's interestingly stylized photography. Freshly minted from a 35mm source, the squeaky-clean presentation exposes the smallest object in the background, such as the lettering on the side of books and individual numbers written on the glass walls. The overall picture is highly detailed and razor-sharp, from the tiny scratches in the dented, metallic thermo and the fabric threading of clothing to the bark of trees and the general neatness of Christian's weapons. During close-ups, minute blemishes, wrinkles and pores are revealed in the lifelike facial complexions. There are a fair amount of softer scenes, which could be chalked up to the photography.
Presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the video also comes with excellently balanced contrast and comfortably bright, crisp whites, allowing for outstanding visibility in the far distance. But going back to McGarvey's cinematography, much of the picture appears slightly subdued and restrained, giving the whole thing a solemn and somewhat grave appeal. This is also likely done to match Wolff's general outlook of life while giving the character's office and home an intentionally drab and dull feel. The overall palette follows suit with a majority of the color looking a bit toned down. However, primaries remain accurate and full-bodied throughout with reds and green dominating much of the frame. Black levels are true and deep, as well, delivering dark, penetrating shadows with strong detailing in the darkest portions.
The bookkeeper also arrives equipped with a pair of DTS-HD MA soundtracks — one in a 7.1 configuration while the other in the customary 5.1 surround sound — and not surprisingly, there appears to be very little difference between them, making the second option somewhat overkill.
Nevertheless, the design makes excellent use of the entire soundfield with several atmospherics flawlessly panning from one speaker to the next and from one side of the room to the other. A few other sounds, such as the commotion of city traffic and the noises of local wildlife, travel into the back with ease for subtle ambiance. The best moments, of course, as the few bursts of action and the final quarter of the movie, but on the whole, rear activity is not particularly immersive though effective for a slow-burning crime thriller such as this.
For a majority of the time, the lossless mix is a front-heavy presentation with a broad and welcoming soundstage. Imaging displays outstanding channel separation and balance with convincing off-screen effects and precise, well-prioritized vocals. The mid-range delivers distinct, room-penetrating clarity in the highs, allowing for superb detailing in the score and in each gunshot, ringing throughout the room with impressive realism. The low-end is surprisingly palpable and occasionally authoritative, especially when Christian Wolff fires the .50 caliber BMG sniper rifle, sending a deep, wall-rattling shockwave that's sure to wake the neighbors. There are also a couple moments when bass dips well below 20Hz (bass chart).
Although a decently entertaining crime actioner, 'The Accountant' is not a wholly satisfying experience, exposing some minor, unexpected setbacks and clerical anomalies in its storytelling. Starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick and John Lithgow, the movie is rather unexceptional as it tries to blend the realities of a complex developmental disability with fantasy. The Blu-ray arrives with exceptional picture quality and a mostly satisfying audio presentation, but supplements are pretty light for a new release such as this. In the end, the overall package makes for a decent rental before deciding to invest in a permanent purchase.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.