By Esosa Omo-Usoh
How fortuitous that on the weekend that The Accountant (a movie whose protagonist suffers from a mental illness, autism) opened in Nigeria, a leading pastor tweeted that “The root cause of mental illness is sin… and the foundational solution to mental health is salvation”. The jury is still out on whether the former will generate as much furore at the box office as the latter did on Nigerian social media.
One thing is clear though; if it were Nollywood rather than Hollywood that was given the storyline (i.e. an autistic forensic accountant who moonlights as a terminator of people who violate his moral code) of The Accountant to make a movie of, we would have had a decidedly different movie with a leaning towards spiritual/fetish hocus pocus given the focus on the autism of the protagonist.
However, that is not to say that The Accountant (despite its leaning towards reason and logic) lends itself to easy/believable comprehension by the audience. Whist devoid of the spiritual/fetish hocus pocus that Nollywood would have favoured, the Accountant throws up its own web of the incomprehensible, the implausible, a convoluted series of flashbacks and plotlines and a tie-in explanation scene that was such a cop out.
In the Accountant, Ben Affleck stars as an autistic forensic accountant with a moral code that apparently both allows him to work for bad guys and then kill them off for violating said moral code. Confused much? Hey, the movie is titled The Accountant, and accounting for most people is a confusing exercise. Crunching all that inflow and outflow numbers on a ledger book will give the average person a headache.
The movie starts out with a flashback followed by another flashback and thereafter, we have the Accountant’s convoluted version of the dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream scene/sequence in Christopher Nolan’s Inception.
To give you the movie’s version of the executive summary of those headache-inducing audit reports that most people who are not accountants favour, let’s just say; Ben Affleck’s Christian Wolff was born autistic but with a flair for numbers that invariably sees him winding up as a forensic accountant. His father refused him receiving treatment for his autism but trains him and his brother in martial arts and shooting. Their mother capitulates under the strain of raising an autistic child and abandons them.
Christian Wolff makes a more-than-descent living for himself as the accountant of choice for the undesirables across the globe. It enables him to be able to afford an amoury that would give the average white supremacist supporter of Donald Trump a hard on that even the Donald (with his famed little fingers) would be envious of, and a stash of Jackson Pollock originals in his private collection of paintings.
A treasury agent, Raymond King (J. K. Simmons) is on his trail (Wolff having been a blurry constant feature in a collection of photographs of some global undesirables), and blackmails a junior treasury agent with a questionable past to aid in his search for Wolff or face being outed on her past.
Wolff gets a brief to audit the Accounts of a robotics company and uncovers a $61million dollar fraud but before he can find out the perpetrator, the assumed perpetrator is encouraged to overdose on insulin by an aptly-named hitman, The Assassin. This results in Wolff’s brief being cancelled much to his chagrin.
As in accounting where a book is cooked to hide a fraud, things are not always as they seem. From here on out, we are treated to a series of convoluted plot twists that leaves us so confused that the filmmakers decide we needed a break and give us a scene where Raymond King, whilst lying in wait in Wolff’s house, explains to junior treasury agent (and the confused audience), Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) the backstories that are meant to aid audience clarity on what the movie is about.
Armed with clarity, we trudge on to a final showdown between Wolff and the Assassin and his crew that just beggars belief and ups the ante in the implausible entry column in an accounting ledger book.
As Christian Wolff, Ben Affleck brings a dead-pan robotic portrayal to the character that suggests he probably just rolled off the production line of Living Robotics, the company that hired him to audit their books in the movie. But his portrayal of an autistic person, whilst not quite up to Dustin Hoffman standard in Rain man, was sufficiently believable in this movie.
Excellent character actor, J. K. Simmons, in this movie was reduced to no more than a routine entry in a ledger book as was Anna Kendrick whose bland performance is not even worthy of any forensic audit.
The thing with the Accountant is; whilst it gives you all these materials to work with, in the end; it leaves you with a tapestry that is good to look at but the intricacies of which beggars belief. The good guys are not exactly good and the bad guys are not exactly bad. And everybody operates with a moral code that is self-contradicting. The Accountant, whilst an enjoyable movie, looks like it could do with some forensic auditing in the comprehension/plausibility department.