For sheer novelty value The Accountant scores points: not only is the action hero a Certified Public Accountant–he’s also autistic. It’s an intriguing idea at first. The boy’s military father practices “tough love” bullying—and how to fight back. Affleck grows up to be a C.P.A., better with numbers than he is at connecting with people or making small talk.

Meanwhile, Treasury Department crime chief J.K. Simmons gives one of his top agents (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) the task of tracking down a mystery man who is seen in a handful of photos with some of the top mobsters and drug dealers in the world. It turns out to be Affleck, who is with them because he’s cooking their books. His cover is an accounting office in a strip mall in suburban Illinois.

Then the plot thickens considerably. Affleck is approached by a representative of a cutting-edge robotics company (John Lithgow) where a low-level accountant (Anna Kendrick) has stumbled onto a discrepancy in the books. It means that someone has been embezzling money on a large scale. Affleck takes the job of identifying the culprit and spurns Kendrick’s attempts to be friendly—at first.

The trouble with Bill Dubuque’s screenplay is that it’s much too long and takes forever to put the pieces of its puzzle together. In fact, it holds out on us right to the very end. I found this to be frustrating rather than intriguing, and there’s at least one piece of that complicated puzzle that doesn’t make much sense; I can’t describe it or I’d give away a crucial story ingredient.

For a thriller with a bookish hero, The Accountant is extremely violent. Almost every killing is lightning-fast (using guns with silencers) so people die with shocking suddenness. Director Gavin O’Connor handles all of this efficiently but the protracted screenplay and unlikely story twists do him no favors. We’re left with a cluttered, unsatisfying mess.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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May 2024