Nothing hampers the movie and contributes to its lethargic start more than Ben Affleck’s Chris Wolff, a mathematically brilliant accountant whose autism pushes him away from everyone else in his world as well as from any interesting developments. Having to play an underdeveloped character shouldn’t count against Affleck, but his forgettable presence is especially noticeable alongside the solid performances of the remaining cast, especially Jon Bernthal, who acts as the rowdy antithesis to Chris’ withdrawn assassin, and JK Simmons as the seasoned cop leading the investigation after him. Working at the robotic prosthetics company where Chris has been hired to find any faults in their records, Anna Kendrick’s upbeat Dana provides a good potential foil for him to show us more about his past and a much needed shot in the arm for the so-far tedious pace, but their conversations quickly end up being the most lackluster part of the film and exacerbate the main issue that Gavin O’Connor keeps running into: focusing on a character who doesn’t like to talk to anyone means everything we need to know about him is forced to come from a flashback, slowing the story down even further.
Most of these problems don’t surface in the second half of the film, but neither do many of the characters, including Dana, and after the initial relief of watching some brutally intimate fistfights (carried over from O’Connor’s exhilarating cage matches in Warrior), the story begins to feel like the finale of a premium TV crime series we’re being shown as the pilot. What could have been a fulfilling redemption and reunion with some context outside of hurried flashbacks ends up being another detriment to the rest of the film, spreading the characters out further across another direction the plot should have stuck with as the main one.
The unconventional protagonist of Chris makes for an interesting concept, especially for a $44 million Hollywood thriller, and could have really carried a more compressed film that shaved away a storyline here and there, so while The Accountant goes down relatively easy as it is, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it could have been really refreshing had it only been mixed a bit better.